TAMPA, Florida — Members of the Republican Party are gathering in Tampa, Florida amid the threat of bad weather for their week-long U.S. presidential nominating convention. Convention organizers have canceled their Monday program because of the approach of Tropical Storm Issac and hope to get down to business on Tuesday.
Security officers were out in force as delegates, visitors and members of the news media arrived in droves at Tampa International Airport.
But the main concern is the weather threat posed by Isaac. The storm is expected to pass to the west of Tampa on Monday. And organizers were concerned that the heavy rain and high winds predicted for the area could complicate efforts to get delegates and visitors to the convention hall.
Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus spoke Sunday on the CBS television program Face the Nation.
“Obviously, you can’t be assured what would happen on Monday if you had a full arena and then couldn’t get people out of here," he said. "So it’s an obvious choice - safety first.”
Convention officials say they hope the storm will stay far to the west of Tampa as it moves through the Gulf of Mexico, enabling them to open their national nominating convention on Tuesday.
The convention will build to a climax later in the week when Republicans will formally nominate former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney as their presidential candidate to face President Barack Obama. They will also nominate Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan as Romney's vice presidential running mate. Ryan is scheduled to give his acceptance speech on Wednesday.
Romney will have his moment in the spotlight on Thursday when an estimated 30 to 40 million people will be watching on national television.
Romney has made President Obama’s handling of the economy a key issue in this year’s election. But political experts say Romney's acceptance speech will be a key moment in the campaign as he seeks to make a personal connection with voters.
“Well, what Romney needs to do is to make voters who think he is not their guy to reevaluate and say, 'Well, I ought to take a second look at him.' And conventions offer that opportunity," said Peter Brown, who is with the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "The entire convention will be focused on Romney, his family, his values and his history. ”
The list of convention speakers for Tuesday’s opening session include Mitt Romney's wife, Ann, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Christie is a favorite of conservatives because of his blunt speaking style. He will deliver the convention keynote speech, the address that will lay out the Republican Party's themes for the week.
In the past, political conventions of both major parties - the Democrats and the Republicans - typically chose their presidential candidates. But in recent decades, the conventions have become more scripted, designed to build support for their respective presidential nominees.
Candidates hope to benefit from what is called a post-convention "bounce" in public opinion surveys that could help them in the final weeks of the campaign leading up to Election Day in November.
“Romney wants an enthusiastic convention," said Norman Ornstein, a political analyst with the Washington D.C.-based American Enterprise Institute. "He wants to have a sense that people are excited about him, which has been a real problem for him up to now.”
A convention boost for Romney could be important this year because public opinion polls show the race is very close. The Democrats will meet next week in Charlotte, North Carolina to hold their convention and nominate President Obama for a second four-year term.
Related report by Suzanne Presto: