TAMPA, Florida — U.S. Republicans meeting in Tampa, Florida, plan to get down to business Tuesday after their national nominating convention was delayed a day by the effects of Tropical Storm Isaac.
The Republican National Convention will finally kick into high gear Tuesday with speeches from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and from Ann Romney, wife of the soon-to-be presidential nominee, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
The Republican gathering briefly convened Monday and then recessed until Tuesday, giving delegates a day off before they get down to the business of formally nominating Mitt Romney and his vice presidential running mate, Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan.
In opening the convention, Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus unveiled what organizers called the National Debt Clock to track the deepening federal government debt during the next three days.
“We also want to draw your attention to the unprecedented fiscal recklessness of the Obama administration as depicted by the real time National Debt Clock shown here in the arena," said Priebus.
But if Republicans are distracted by anything here it is the track of Isaac, which has set off hurricane warnings for the central coast of the Gulf of Mexico, including New Orleans, Louisiana, which was battered by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
President Barack Obama has already signed a disaster declaration for Louisiana in anticipation of damage from Isaac.
In 2005, then-President George W. Bush was harshly criticized for his administration’s late and ineffective response to the Katrina disaster, and many Republicans here are sensitive to those memories.
Among them is one of Mitt Romney’s former rivals for the Republican presidential nomination, Georgia businessman Herman Cain, who believes the convention should continue as scheduled.
“Just be mindful of it but don’t call it off unless there is some major, major, major tragedy like Hurricane Katrina," said Cain.
Convention spokesman Russ Schriefer says the party intends to compress four days of speakers into the next three days but will also keep an eye on Isaac.
“Obviously our first concern is for the people in the path of the storm," said Schriefer. "So as we continue to move ahead we are planning for a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday convention and we have a wait-and-see attitude to see what happens with the storm.”
Delegates and party officials seem upbeat despite losing the first day of the convention due to weather concerns.
Virginia Congressman Randy Forbes says the party has never been more enthusiastic about its chances in November against President Barack Obama, and he says that enthusiasm will be on display on the convention floor this week in Tampa.
But Forbes acknowledges that weather concerns may draw attention away from the convention.
“I think the weather is a distraction," said forbes. "I think the weather will take away from the convention. But like other hurdles we will overcome it and we’ll not only survive it but will turn it into something that is positive.”
A few hundred protesters, including some from the Occupy Movement, were on the streets in Tampa Monday. But that was well down from the thousands some had predicted and security forces kept them far away from the convention site.
Jason Woody was among them.
“It's definitely important to be out here, to get our voices heard, you know to let the Republicans know that we the people really aren't having it and we're tired," he said.
Watch related report by Greg Flakus: Protesters Converge on Tampa for Republican Convention
Mitt Romney will be officially nominated Tuesday after a roll call of the state delegations. Romney accumulated the necessary delegates during the numerous state primary and caucus elections earlier this year.
On Wednesday, the spotlight will be on Romney’s running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan, who will give a speech to the convention.
Romney will follow with an acceptance speech of his own on Thursday, a chance to reintroduce himself to the American public when an estimated 30 to 40 million people will be watching the convention proceedings on television or on-line.
The latest national polls show the race between Romney and the president is a virtual dead-heat.