Democrats, who had planned a strong counteroffensive, scrapped some of their plans, too, including a Sunday afternoon news conference with the Democratic National Committee chairwoman and local officials. Vice President Biden also postponed plans to campaign in Florida on Monday and Tuesday.
In 2008, Republicans had to cancel a day of events in St. Paul as Hurricane Gustav headed toward landfall in the Gulf. With the party experiencing a more serious repeat of that episode, scrutiny has fallen on the selection committee and former RNC chairman Michael Steele for picking Florida, a state prone to severe weather.
The 12-member committee scouted several cities, including Phoenix and Salt Lake City, but ultimately decided on Tampa because it was the most prepared to handle a convention that costs some $40 million to host.
Cindy Costa, a South Carolina delegate who was on the selection committee, said that the other cities seemed equivocal during the selection process, and that Florida got the nod in the end on a unanimous vote.
“Everybody was thrilled, obviously,” Costa said. “But in the back of your mind you know [severe weather is] a possibility. It’s just one of those imponderable things that you can’t know.”
Even with the most severe weather headed elsewhere, convention planners are mindful of the schedule and the specter of holding a big event when another region of the country is dealing with an emergency.
Monday’s theme was to be “We Can Do Better,” highlighting the country’s rising debt and lingering joblessness. Scheduled speakers included House Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio), former Florida governor Jeb Bush, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.). The roll-call vote that would make Romney’s nomination official, which was planned for Monday night, is now scheduled for Tuesday.
Heading into Tampa, Romney had been trying to build on the momentum following the largely successful rollout of Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) as his vice presidential running mate. But his task of winning over moderate voters became more challenging last week as the Missouri Senate candidate’s comments on “legitimate rape” and abortion — as well as Romney’s quip Friday about Obama’s birth certificate — highlighted views at the fringes of the Republican coalition.
Romney’s advisers had planned an elaborately choreographed convention aimed at presenting him as a successful businessman and compassionate family man.
Rosalind S. Helderman and Rachel Weiner contributed to this story.