TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Tuesday’s brunch with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and House Speaker John Boehner has been moved indoors. Schedules were rearranged to fill an open Monday evening. Sandbags were in place outside the hotel housing the 800-strong California delegation.
The threat of Tropical Storm Isaac left delegates to the Republican National Convention recalibrating Sunday but insistent that the show will go on with just a few modifications due to the weather. The GOP postponed most of Monday’s lineup, cramming four days of events into three with hopes for a major send-off for Mitt Romney on Thursday.
“I think frankly Thursday night is going to be the big show … and nobody can articulate Romney’s message better than Romney,” said Jim Poolman, vice chairman of the North Dakota GOP. “Wednesday will be important for Paul Ryan to introduce himself to (the country). And those two nights won’t change.”
Poolman arrived in the Tampa area Sunday afternoon and was settling in. He said if Monday’s opening forum is abbreviated, he will likely stick around his Treasure Island hotel to get some work done.
A revised convention schedule shows a brief Monday session that Romney’s chief convention planner said would last no more than five minutes.
Mitch Zak, media director of California’s delegation, said a lot of events were being reorganized because of the storm.
One that went off as planned was Sunday night’s kickoff party. Delegates flowed into Tropicana Field, taking advantage of the welcome event organized by the convention host committee.
The home of the Tampa Bay Rays was transformed from baseball field into a party zone featuring three separate stages that showcased acts such as country music star Rodney Atkins, belly dancers and cheerleaders. Delegates got to drink as well as take in Cuban food and local seafood.
Organizers said that roughly 20,000 people had been invited, but they were not certain how much the potential threat of Tropical Storm Isaac would discourage people from attending. Ken Jones, president and CEO of the 2012 Republican National Committee host convention, defended going ahead with the event despite the storm threat.
“It’s really less about the partying atmosphere and really more about promoting Tampa Bay,” Jones said. “We are on a world stage right now. We are going to showcase our city to the world.”
A Monday breakfast with speakers such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman was moved to a new room inside the TradeWinds hotel on the water near Tampa. The brunch with Rice, Boehner and California Rep. Darrell Issa, was planned for an outside venue, but will now be held within the hotel.
“They’re putting some sandbags up outside and we’ll just have to wait and see, and hope Isaac is kind,” Zak said, noting that 90 percent of his delegation has arrived.
“The staff and the organizers are focusing on the logistics,” Zak said. “Everyone has arrived with a sense of energy. So we’re all rolling with this.”
The latest weather reports showed Isaac heading farther west of Tampa, but hurricane warnings were issued from the New Orleans area to the Florida Panhandle.
Zak saw no effect on the mood of the convention, or Romney’s ability to get his message out.
“We’re ready to blow the roofs off on Tuesday night,” he said. “We’re going to give him one hell of a send-off.”
The inclement weather, if anything, will “demonstrate that the Republican Party is resilient and committed to America,” Zak added.
Tom Del Beccaro, chairman of the California GOP, said the delay “will only result in some pent-up energy but otherwise won’t affect us that much.”
At least one delegate was concerned about the fast-changing schedule.
Shane Goettle, a North Dakota delegate who lost a GOP congressional primary earlier this year, said he was worried that some Republican Senate candidates would be bumped from the schedule, including his state’s nominee, Rep. Rick Berg.
Indeed, the revised schedule released Sunday showed Berg was not among those who kept their speaking slots.
“As a delegate from North Dakota, I’d very much like to see him up there,” Goettle said.
Goettle planned to attend a business meeting that has been moved to Tuesday. For the down times in between, he said, “it’s an opportunity for our delegation to bond.”
Michele M. Mustello and her sister, Marci, drove 18 to 20 hours from Butler, Pa., to Tampa and arrived Sunday.
Mustello said she’d play Monday by ear, depending on how the convention agenda has changed. But for now, none of the luncheons or mixers she planned to attend had been canceled.
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