This satellite image shows Tropical Storm Isaac over the Gulf of Mexico,… (NOAA / AFP/Getty Images )
TAMPA, Fla. -- A storm that days ago looked to be tracking precariously close to Tampa now has its sights set on New Orleans. And as the sun shone briefly in Tampa on Monday, Louisiana’s delegation to the Republican National Convention was likewise turning its focus back home with Tropical Storm Isaac threatening coastal regions.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who was slated to give a speech in prime time in Tampa on Wednesday, has now canceled plans to travel for the party gathering.
“Party conventions are interesting but there’s no time for politics here in Louisiana,” the governor posted on his Twitter feed. “This storm, like every other storm is non-partisan. This is a time when we must all come together.”
Jason Doré, the executive director of the Louisiana Republican Party, estimated that 25% of the state’s delegation will either be returning home from Tampa or canceling plans to attend the convention. Many of that group, he noted, are elected leaders who, like Jindal, have to focus on their official duties.
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Those who remain, Doré said, are understandably concerned about friends and family but remain focused on what they came to Tampa for: nominating the candidate they hope can defeat President Obama in November.
“We’re here to get the job done,” Doré said. “We’re going to participate and enjoy it to the best we can.”
Republican leaders canceled all of Monday’s proceedings, save for a brief gaveling-in of the convention Monday afternoon. The plan still calls for a three-day convention with most of the speakers’ lineup intact, even with Isaac now forecast to make landfall as a Category 1 or Category 2 hurricane as early as Tuesday evening.
Doré said convention organizers will make the best decisions about the remaining schedule based on circumstances that may continue to change, with the hope that the storm “won’t be catastrophic.”
“Our people are very supportive of moving forward,” Doré said of the Louisiana delegation. “We have a lot of confidence in the leadership of the RNC and the way that they’ve dealt with this.”
Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who served seven years ago when Hurricane Katrina battered Biloxi and other parts of the state, said he was not concerned about the potential “split-screen” effect of a GOP in a celebratory mode this week as Gulf states were potentially dealing with another devastating storm.
“I don’t think it will have any significant impact on the capacity for this convention to be a springboard" for presumed Republican nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, he told reporters at a briefing hosted by the conservative think tank Resurgent Republic. “Everybody here has got one eye on this storm. Even if you’re from Minnesota and not Mississippi, you’re concerned about the people that may be affected. So right now we’re praying for the best but preparing for the worst.”
Still, he acknowledged that the convention was a potentially pivotal moment for Romney, as it is for any challenger facing an incumbent president.
“They don’t know much about Romney. And they’ve been told a bunch of terrible things about him -- that he doesn’t care about people like you. That he ships jobs to China. That he’s a wealthy plutocrat married to a known equestrian,” he said.
After the convention, Barbour added, if all goes well, they’ll “see who Mitt Romney really is, and what he’s really done. And if you’re looking for someone to turn the country around and get it going back in the right direction, this is a guy who’s spent his whole life turning things that had gotten off track around.”
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