Republicans Delay Convention Start to Tuesday Due to Weather Concerns

Alex Roarty
National Journal

Republican officials are delaying the start of their convention until at least Tuesday as Tropical Storm Isaac bears down on the Tampa Bay region, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Saturday in a memo.

Priebus said GOP officials will determine how to re-arrange the remaining three days of the Republican National Convention schedule as early as Sunday. Officially, the convention will convene on Monday, and then immediately recess until Tuesday afternoon.

“Our first priority is ensuring the safety of delegates, alternates, guests, members of the media attending the Republican National Convention, and citizens of the Tampa Bay area,” Priebus said. “RNC Convention officials and the Romney campaign are working closely with state, local and federal officials, as well as the Secret Service, to monitor Tropical Storm Isaac and preserve Florida's emergency management resources. Officials have predicted participants may encounter severe transportation difficulties due to sustained wind and rain.”

Saturday’s announcement caps nearly a week of speculation that Isaac, which is expected to grow into a hurricane by the time it hits the area, could delay or even force the outright cancellation of the convention or parts of it. Concern had abated in the past day or two, but Republican officials still determined holding the gathering Monday could endanger the participants.

“Our chief priority is the safety of the residents of Florida, of those visiting the Convention, and all those in Gulf Coast states who may be impacted by Tropical Storm Isaac,” said Bill Harris, the CEO of the RNC.

Vice President Joe Biden's plans also were affected by the weather. A day after canceling his Democratic counter-messaging visit to Tampa on Monday, the Obama-Biden campaign said the vice president would also postpone events planned for Tuesday in Orlando and St. Augustine. The change was made "to ensure that all law enforcement and emergency management resources across the state can continue their focus on ensuring the safety of those who might be impacted by the storm," the campaign said.

Democrats are holding a three-day convention in Charlotte Sept. 4-6. Republicans had planned on a four-day convention starting Monday and culminating Thursday with Mitt Romney accepting the GOP presidential nomination.

Even before Isaac, Monday was giving the party trouble. Television networks said they would not run coverage on Monday night, though Ann Romney was scheduled to speak that night. On Friday. Romney said his wife's speech had been moved to Tuesday night.

This is not the first time Monday activities at a Republican convention have been affected by severe weather. Four years ago, Hurricane Gustav prompted Republican officials to cancel most of the first day's program in St. Paul.