The disrupted schedule had leading Republicans questioning whether a four-day convention is still necessary — and left thousands of delegates unexpectedly at loose ends for the day.
Rain was interspersed with periods of sun. Some delegates even went to the beach.
Republicans officials said late Monday that they would press ahead with Tuesday’s full schedule, including the convention’s keynote address by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a major speech by Ann Romney and a roll call vote that will formally nominate Romney as the party’s presidential nominee.
But officials continued to closely monitor Isaac, which forecasts predict will make landfall on the Gulf Coast, potentially near New Orleans, late Tuesday or early Wednesday.
The decision to move ahead without changes carried significant risk for the GOP. The image of Republicans partying in Tampa while Gulf Coast residents face a potentially deadly storm could be damaging, particularly given the coincidence of the Katrina anniversary. The 2005 hurricane took more than 1,836 lives, and the George W. Bush administration was widely criticized for the government’s handling of the disaster, especially the actions of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and its director at the time, Michael Brown.
“Obviously, our thoughts are with the people in the path of the storm,” Romney strategist Russ Schriefer told reporters Monday. “We hope that they’re spared any major destruction, and we’re thinking about them,”
Based on evening forecasts, Schriefer said organizers did not see a need for speakers to tone down their partisan rhetoric. “I think this is a good debate, a healthy debate and an important debate. It’s a debate the American people have been looking forward to,” he said.
With a new Washington Post/ABC News poll showing the presidential race essentially tied, Republicans face an additional challenge: amplifying their message that Romney would make a better steward of the economy while competing for the country’s attention during a large and potentially damaging storm.
Several network news anchors decamped from Tampa for New Orleans on Monday, presenting the GOP with the uncomfortable prospect of split-screen coverage of the convention and the storm on Tuesday and Wednesday, while President Obama manages storm response.
Vice President Biden already had canceled a campaign trip to Florida because of the storm, and Obama led a call with governors in Gulf states late Monday. Obama did not, however, cancel the start of his own two-day campaign swing Tuesday in Iowa, Colorado and Virginia.