Isaac threatens to steal Romney's moment

2012-08-27 08:59
Tea Party supporter Sandra Stuart prays before the start of the Tea Party Unity Rally at The River at Tampa Bay Church ahead of the Republican National Convention, in Tampa, Florida. (Robyn Beck, AFP)

Tea Party supporter Sandra Stuart prays before the start of the Tea Party Unity Rally at The River at Tampa Bay Church ahead of the Republican National Convention, in Tampa, Florida. (Robyn Beck, AFP)

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Tampa - Tropical Storm Isaac threatened on Monday to steal the media spotlight from Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and overshadow the all-important convention that will crown him the nominee.

Monday was supposed to be the raucous kick-off to four days of carefully choreographed political theatre designed to imprint Romney's image upon the American consciousness as the potential savior of the flagging US economy.

Instead, after party officials scrapped the first day of events due to the threat posed by Isaac, a symbolic 10-minute session will be held at the Tampa convention centre before the gavel adjourns proceedings until the following day.

The original script had Romney to be formally nominated to take on President Barack Obama in the 6 November election by delegate roll call on Monday morning, launching a succession of well-honed speeches by leading party figures.

That procedure will now take place on Tuesday after the first day's programme was repackaged into a tighter three-day schedule due to the storm.

Party officials stressed that the prime night-time speaking slots on Tuesday and Wednesday, culminating in Romney's acceptance speech on Thursday after an introduction by rising Hispanic star Marco Rubio, remained unchanged.

Back-up plan

"We feel good that we're going to go ahead and do the roll call on Tuesday," Romney campaign aide Russ Schriefer told journalists.

Now forecast to miss the convention site of Tampa, Isaac is expected to strengthen in the coming days to a hurricane over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico before smashing into Louisiana later in the week near New Orleans.

Pressed on whether they had a back-up plan if Hurricane Isaac wreaked havoc during the convention, party officials said they remained flexible but refused to offer details of any contingencies.

"We are obviously monitoring," said Schriefer. "Our concern has to be with the people who are in the path of the storm."

Those words were echoed by the candidate himself, who must tread a fine line between preventing the storm from stealing his limelight, while displaying concern for those in harm's way.

Preparing for his convention speech in New Hampshire, Romney said: "I hope everybody's fine there. I'm concerned about the people that are going to be affected by it."

'God must be a Democrat'

Asked whether he was worried that the storm might overshadow his big moment, the candidate replied: "It'll be a great convention."

Events have raised ironic cries that God must be a Democrat as they echo a similar scenario in 2008, when Republicans canceled nearly all their programming on the first day of their convention in Saint Paul, Minnesota due to Hurricane Gustav.

Jeb Bush, then Florida governor, was also forced to stay put in his home state in 2004 to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Charley instead of addressing the New York convention to renominate his brother, president George W Bush.

Isaac approached hurricane strength on Sunday as it barreled past the Florida Keys into the Gulf of Mexico, taking aim for the coast of Louisiana after claiming seven lives in Haiti.

Forecasts put it on a direct path for New Orleans, seven years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city and killed 1 800 people in the country's worst natural disaster in living memory.

Isaac is expected to be a category one or at worst category two hurricane when it makes landfall - late on Tuesday or early on Wednesday - considerably weaker than Katrina, which was a category four.

Akin criticised

But Romney can ill afford to play down its potential impact as the political repercussions would be disastrous if it went on to cause significant damage or loss of life.

At the same time, the Tampa convention is a golden opportunity for the candidate to hog the airwaves and weave a compelling personal narrative that could tip the balance in a tight election likely to go down to the wire.

The run-up to the event has already been overshadowed by incendiary remarks from Todd Akin, a Republican congressman seeking a Senate seat in Missouri who suggested women's bodies could prevent pregnancy after a "legitimate rape".

Speaking to Fox News on Sunday, Romney criticised Akin, saying the controversy "hurts our party and I think is damaging to women".

In an interview with USA Today newspaper, the candidate decried what he called "misguided" and "dishonest" attacks by President Barack Obama's camp against him.

"The White House just keeps stepping lower and lower and lower, and the people of America know this is an important election, and they deserve better than they've seen," Romney said.

The Republican camp is anxious to get the campaign back on message, billing the former Massachusetts governor as a successful businessman with the acumen to turn around the economy and get the country back on track.

Polls show a tight race between the Republican challenger and Obama with a handful of key swing states expected to decide the outcome.

Read more on:    ron paul  |  barack obama  |  mitt romney  |  us  |  us elections 2012
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