Haley Barbour on RNC hurricane threat: ‘Everybody here’s got one eye on the storm’

Liz Goodwin

TAMPA—Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour told reporters Monday that even though the tropical storm raging in the Gulf of Mexico looks like it will hit New Orleans in the next two days, he does not anticipate it will significantly affect the already-delayed Republican National Convention in Tampa.

"I don't think [Tropical Storm Isaac] will have any significant impact on the capacity for this to be a springboard for Romney and Ryan," Barbour said at a breakfast at Tampa's Hyatt Regency, a few blocks away from where the Republican National Convention was supposed to kick off Monday. RNC leaders decided to delay the beginning speeches until Tuesday because of the storm. "It may take some adjustment, and everybody here's got one eye on the storm," he said.

"Right now we're praying for the best and preparing for the worst," he added.

Barbour dismissed the idea that Romney could look callous if he continues the convention while others on the Gulf Coast are being hit by the storm. Barbour, whose reputation was built in part on handling storms in Mississippi, said that the convention is a crucial opportunity for Romney to sell himself to the nation and combat negative messages that portray him as an out-of-touch "plutocrat" who is married to a "known equestrian"—a joking reference to Democrats' ill-fated jab at Ann Romney for enjoying the sport of dressage, which helps her cope with her multiple sclerosis.

But the Boston Globe reported Monday that Romney's top advisers say the candidate is considering calling the entire convention off, depending on the storm's strength:

Consider for a moment the juxtaposition of President Obama marshaling his administration's forces and personally visiting New Orleans or Mobile, Ala., in the aftermath of the storm's landfall, all while the convention hall is filled with delegates dressed in funny hats listening to partisan speeches.

As of now, the plan is for a brief kickoff of the convention Monday afternoon immediately followed by a recess until Tuesday afternoon, when some party luminaries—including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ann Romney—are scheduled to speak.

"We also understand there's one thing you can predict about hurricanes—they're unpredictable," Barbour said. "This does not look like it's going to be a major storm."