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GOP convention planners watch as Isaac targets New Orleans

August 27, 2012|By David Lauter
  • This satellite image released by NOAA shows Tropical Storm Isaac as it takes aim at Louisiana and other Gulf states Monday.
This satellite image released by NOAA shows Tropical Storm Isaac as it takes… (NOAA / AFP/Getty Images )

TAMPA, Fla. – Republican convention officials plan to stick with their current three-day convention schedule, but are keeping a careful eye on Isaac, as the tropical storm heads toward the Gulf Coast.

“Obviously, our first concern is for the people who are in the path of the storm,” Mitt Romney campaign strategist Russ Schriefer said at the convention’s Monday morning media briefing.

Convention officials are taking a “wait and see attitude,” he said, adding that he was “not gonna answer the hypothetical ‘what if, what if’” questions about possible changes to the Tuesday through Thursday schedule.

PHOTOS: Preparations for the GOP convention

The main concern for schedulers is the likelihood that Isaac will slam into the Louisiana or Mississippi coast just as the convention gets underway. The storm is forecast to become a hurricane as it crosses over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico in the next 24 hours, and is currently projected to hit land just south of New Orleans late Tuesday night.

Republican officials worry that they may have to share the media spotlight with pictures of people evacuating New Orleans or other Gulf Coast communities. Cable and broadcast television networks have already moved correspondents and some news anchors to the New Orleans area.

At minimum, coverage of the storm could cut into Republican hopes that positive images of Romney will dominate television news coverage over the next few days. The image could get worse if Republican festivities began to seem insensitive to hurricane victims.

The fact that Isaac is forecast to hit land just about on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina adds an extra concern for Republicans since the George W. Bush administration’s response to that hurricane was widely perceived by voters as slow and bungled.

GOP officials are alert to those risks. But “we’re quick and nimble and will be able to respond” as necessary, Schriefer said.

Asked about a storm of a different sort, Schriefer hinted that Donald Trump might appear at the convention later this week. Trump, the casino and real estate mogul known for inflammatory comments on a host of subjects, was in Tampa on Sunday and told convention organizers that he “couldn’t make it the rest of the week,” Schriefer said. But, he added cryptically, “just because he’s here doesn’t mean he’s not going to show up.”

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David.Lauter@latimes.com

Twitter: @DavidLauter

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