TAMPA, Fla. - This part of Florida is already getting pelted by the rain and wind of Tropical Storm Isaac, which is currently barreling into the Gulf of Mexico on a collision course with New Orleans, but it's worth asking whether at least some political damage is already done.
The storm has already forced the postponement of the first day of the Republican National Convention, and over the weekend party officials were learning a lesson in how to squeeze a four-day convention into three.
The Republican National Committee and the Romney campaign insists that they have been able to revamp the schedule with minimal disruption to the overall program and message of the week, but four days that were supposed to be all about the nomination of Mitt Romney as the GOP's presidential nominee look like they are about swallowed up by Isaac, which is expected to strengthen into a hurricane within the next 24 hours.
Although the convention site, itself, may not be as severely affected as some had initially feared, the official nomination of Romney and running mate Paul Ryan as well as the celebration of party unity will have to compete for headlines and airtime with one of the worst storms of the year to make landfall in the United States.
Gulf Coast governors in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi have already declared states of emergency as Isaac approaches, evacuation orders have gone out for low-lying areas of the coast and residents were making preparations for what experts say will eventually become a Category 1 hurricane.
That poses a second problem for Romney and the Republicans: The celebratory optics of a national convention coinciding with a potentially destructive weather event on U.S. soil just does not look right.
Campaign officials say they are monitoring the weather minute-by-minute and that they will be nimble enough to make adjustments depending on what happens once Isaac makes landfall, but this turn of events is certainly not helping them amplify the themes they had originally hoped to highlight this week.
Today, which was to be the first full day of the convention - chock full of speakers and activities - has been reduced to a gavel-in and gavel-out moment with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.
"If the session lasts more than five minutes I would be surprised," Romney campaign strategist Russ Schriefer said, noting that although delegates are invited to attend he did not anticipate many would show up. Most of the delegates are finding ways to weather the storm and still have some fun. (The South Carolina delegation, for example, has an indoor putting tournament planned as well as karaoke.)
In an interview with "Fox News Sunday," Priebus emphasized that "the show is going to go on."
"We're going to get the business done at the RNC," the chairman said yesterday."We're going to nominate Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. We're going to have a great time in Tampa."
MORE FROM TODAY'S ABC NEWS POLL:
from ABC News Pollster Gary Langer http://abcn.ws/PlAKgt
-Today's poll marks the seventh time in 14 ABC-Post surveys this cycle that Romney's held a scant (even 1-point) numerical edge overall, 47 percent compared to Obama's 46 percent. That marks his continued opportunity, but also his difficulties taking full advantage of Obama's weaknesses, particularly on the still-struggling economy. Eighty-five percent of registered voters say it's in bad shape, and, in a related result, seven in 10 say the country's seriously off on the wrong track - two highly hazardous numbers for incumbents.
-Obama's support has slipped numerically in each of the last four ABC-Post polls - from 51 percent in April to 46 percent now - as economic sentiment has worsened amid persistent unemployment and a resumption in rising gasoline prices.
-Romney, crucially, has a slight, seven-point lead among registered voters in trust to handle the economy, 50-43 percent. And he benefits from the fact that 58 percent say they're not confident the economy would improve under a second Obama term. But 52 percent aren't confident it would improve under Romney, either - suggesting that beyond criticizing Obama's economic performance, Romney could benefit by sharpening his argument that he'd do better.
-Among other results, this survey, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds a weak reception for Paul Ryan as Romney's vice presidential running mate - 54 percent of registered voters approve of the choice, somewhat lower than the customary levels in past elections. Still, that rises to 85 percent of "very" conservative registered voters and as many of those who strongly favor the Tea Party political movement, good for Romney in the GOP base.
ABC's RICK KLEIN: The storm has gone from funny sideshow to potential messaging catastrophe faster than the Florida weather changes. Canceling Monday was the easy call. Handling Tuesday, if a hurricane is battering New Orleans - a storm that is a category of its own - will be far dicier. Romney insiders know Friday isn't a real option for anything other than mop-up duty - and yeah, the floors will be wet. So a convention Mitt Romney needed to be very big is getting smaller as the key week arrives.
THE BIG SQUEEZE: CONVENTION PLANNERS TRIM SCHEDULE TO THREE DAYS. From ABC's Michael Falcone: In a conference call with reporters on Sunday, Romney campaign strategist Russ Schriefer said that Tropical Storm Isaac - soon to be Hurricane Isaac - had forced Republican National Convention planners to eliminate "some parts of the program that weren't essential in order to retain our headliners." Schriefer said that none of the "headliners" - those speakers who were scheduled for the prime 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. time slot - had been removed from the program, but other speakers had. "We did not change the 10 to 11 p.m. hour on any night," Schriefer said. http://abcn.ws/RecSL7
According to the revised schedule released by convention officials, the roll call vote officially nominating Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan to the Republican ticket will take place on Tuesday. That night Ann Romney will speak. Ryan's speech takes place on Wednesday and Romney's on Thursday. The trimming of the schedule to accommodate the party's three-day time frame included cutting out some parts of the program entirely and "making a few of the speeches shorter," Schriefer said. And the RNC built in an additional half-hour of time by pushing up the start of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights to 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30. "We're obviously monitoring what is going on with the weather," Schriefer said.
He left open the possibility that "if the weather changes," further alterations to the schedule might be made, though none were planned at this time. And Schriefer declined to speculate about potentially extending the convention programming through Friday. "It's a hypothetical question and I really don't want to kind of answer it in that way," he said.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: GAS PRICE SPIKE? ABC News Business Correspondent Richard Davies notes the giant storm now moving over the Gulf of Mexico could have a direct impact on consumers wallets - pushing up the price of gas. Energy companies are scrambling ahead of Isaac - evacuating workers from oil and natural gas platforms, and cutting oil production in the Gulf of Mexico. As the storm tracks west it becomes a bigger threat to the energy industry. The Gulf accounts for more than 20 percent of US oil production and over 40 percent of refining. If many plants are closed that could push up gas prices - at least for a few weeks. Global oil prices are already on the rise. West Texas crude rose to more than $97. The price was in the low 80-s as recently as June. http://abcn.ws/PIQJYX
"THIS WEEK" REWIND:
-CONVENTION OFFICIALS TAKING NO CHANCES. ABC's Jonathan Karl reports on Republican National Convention officials' decision to postpone proceedings by a day: "It's not gonna be easy-the speeches will be shorter, a few people may miss their mark, but they say they had absolutely no choice. Even though that hurricane is passing to the west, they think we could see winds of 70 miles an hour here, torrential rain, possible flooding. The big issue here is that some of the delegates are staying an hour away on the coast, and they were concerned about loading them up on buses, bringing them here, they thought that it might have been too much of a safety issue. It may be like one of those school days where they called a snow day, and then the storm ended up not being as much, but they really didn't think they had a choice." http://abcn.ws/OlFQZ8
MCDONNELL ON CRIST ENDORSEMENT: 'ONE VOTE.' After former Florida governor Charlie Crist endorsed President Obama, citing abortion language recently adopted in the Republican National Committee Platform, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell tells ABC's George Stephanopoulos: "Governor Crist's endorsement adds one more vote in Florida, and that's it. He's wrong on about every other point. I don't think it's any surprise that the Republican Party is the party that embraces the sanctity and dignity of life, we're a pro-life party, the Democrats are pro choice. … He's wrong on the platform." http://abcn.ws/OlFLVx
MCDONNELL DEFENDS ABORTION PLANK. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who chairs the Republican National Committee's Platform Committee, defended the party's recently reaffirmed stance on abortion. McDonnell told ABC's George Stephanopoulos: "George, you're just reading it wrong. That's been there for 30 years. There are multiple human life amendments that were introduced 20, 30 years ago. Some of them had exceptions, some of them didn't. The real point is we are affirming that we're a pro life party. The details, certainly, are left to Congress and ultimately the states and the people on how they ratify such and amendment and more importantly, what they do at the state level … the party didn't make any judgment on that. It's a general proposition to say we support human life. … This is one more attempt of the Obama administration to take the focus off jobs, the economy, taxes, spending, debt and energy. That's what the people of America care about." http://abcn.ws/OlFQZ8
VILLARAIGOSA: IT'S NOT JUST AKIN. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa responded: "I think governor Crist said it very well, and that is that it is what it is, and maybe it's been there for 30 years, but it's time to take it out. The idea that we would put in our U.S. Constitution an amendment that says that women can't get an abortion even in the case of incest and rape is way beyond the mainstream. … It's not just Mr. Akin's remarks, it's a Republican Party whose platform, who throughout the primary season focused on these kinds of issues." http://abcn.ws/OlFQZ8
with ABC's Chris Good ( @c_good)
MITT AND ANN PREP SPEECHES AT MIDDLE SCHOOL. ABC's Emily Friedman reports from Boston: Practice makes perfect, so for Mitt and Ann Romney that meant spending a Sunday evening inside a local New Hampshire prep school practicing their convention speeches. The Romneys spent about two hours this evening at a high school near their Wolfeboro lake house, accompanied by senior adviser Stuart Stevens. Romney, wearing a white polo shirt and khakis, walked inside with Ann, who clutched her iPad and a stack of notepaper, and told reporters, "Gonna be a great convention." http://abcn.ws/OiNq8E
NOTED: ANN ROMNEY GETS SECRET SERVICE DETAIL. Ann Romney has been given her own Secret Service detail, ABC News has learned. Ann Romney, the wife of presidential candidate Mitt Romney, was first assigned a detail late Friday afternoon, a campaign aide confirmed. She was first spotted by pool reporters riding in a two-car motorcade near her family's lakeside home in Wolfeboro, N.H., on Sunday morning. http://abcn.ws/Ph0I3h
ABC POLITICAL INSIGHTS: MAINSTREAM MITT. Analysis from ABC's Rick Klein: Meet mainstream Mitt. If voters are not intimately acquainted with him by the end of the week, they may not get a chance to meet him again. Mitt Romney's challenge at the Republican National Convention this week will be to yank a party and a biography that aren't particularly oriented to the center back toward the middle. … It's been a messy precursor to the convention: Missouri Senate candidate's odd comments regarding rape and abortion fueled Democratic attempts to make the election into a war over women. Romney and the full Republican Party apparatus have tried to banish Rep. Todd Akin over those comments, fearful that they'll tug perceptions of the party back toward the extremes. http://abcn.ws/SI0uas
OBAMA PUSHBACK: IT WON'T WORK. ABC's Devin Dwyer reports: In a prebuttal to the Republican Convention, the Obama campaign says attempts by presumptive nominee Mitt Romney to refresh his image on the national stage are "not gonna work." A spoof movie trailer produced by the campaign - dubbed an "epic cinematic preview " of Romney's week ahead - openly mocks Romney for what is portrayed as his repeated failure to cultivate a positive image. "Nothing is working," says the announcer over a dramatic soundtrack. "His only hope is a convention reinvention. And an Etch-a-sketch of epic proportions will be shaken to its core." http://abcn.ws/PjdRyv
FLA. GOVERNOR PREPS RESPONSE. ABC's John Parkinson reports: Florida Gov. Rick Scott says that the state's focus moving forward is ensuring the safety of the Sunshine State's 19 million residents along with the crush of visitors traveling to Tampa for the Republican National Convention this week. Scott, who declared a state of emergency for Florida on Saturday, said the latest forecasts have the storm "moving a bit west as it comes up the coast," but he expected Isaac to eventually make landfall somewhere in the Florida panhandle. He said there was "a big concern" over the potential for flooding there. http://abcn.ws/NrCgSs
PAUL RYAN TO PREVIEW CONVENTION SPEECH AT HIS HIGH SCHOOL. ABC's Shushannah Walshe reports from Milwaukee: The vice presidential candidate will return home to his high school, the Joseph A. Craig High School in Janesville, Wisconsin and will give a "small preview of his message about a better future for America," according to the aide. It will also surely tell the story of a local boy done good with a backdrop of an adoring hometown crowd. … The rally is meant to send off the House Budget Chairman to the RNC, although Hurricane Isaac has made his arrival date at the GOP bash still uncertain. At the Janesville rally he will also "talk about the values his hometown taught him and how they're needed in Washington right now," according to the same aide. http://abcn.ws/OEwiKN
NOTED: RYAN STILL DOING P90X. More from ABC's Shushannah Walshe: Despite all the prep, he still had time Sunday to fit in his beloved P90X, a rigorous exercise regime meant to confuse muscles for maximum effect. He also attended Catholic Mass, according to spokesperson Brendan Buck, and along with the staff meetings in the afternoon had dinner with his family and other relatives. Something, according to Buck, the Ryans do most Sundays. http://abcn.ws/OEwiKN
COMING ATTRACTIONS: CRIST TO SPEAK AT DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION. ABC's Devin Dwyer reports: Former Florida Republican governor Charlie Crist, who endorsed President Obama in a Tampa Bay Times op-ed this weekend, will speak at the Democratic National Convention next week. According to a Democratic convention official, "The Democratic convention will be about bringing people together to continue the progress we've made in rebuilding our economy from the middle out, not the top down. Gov. Crist can personally speak to this, and contrast the president's vision with Mitt Romney's, which caters to the most extreme elements of the Republican Party and undermines the middle class."
WHY CHRISTIE ISN'T VP: HE DIDN'T THINK ROMNEY COULD WIN? With New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie set to speak at the GOP convention on Tuesday, the New York Post's Josh Margolin and Beth Defalco report that sources say Chrstie didn't want to be VP because he thought Mitt Romney's chances against President Obama are slim: ""Gov. Chris Christie wasn't willing to give up the New Jersey statehouse to be Mitt Romney's running mate because he doubted they'd win, The Post has learned. Romney's top aides had demanded Christie step down as the state's chief executive because if he didn't, strict pay-to-play laws would have restricted the nation's largest banks from donating to the campaign - since those banks do business with New Jersey. But Christie adamantly refused to sacrifice his post, believing that being Romney's running mate wasn't worth the gamble." http://bit.ly/NW6lFi
ABC INTERVIEWS GINGRICH: 'HISTORY WILL BE TOUGHEST GRADER.' ABC's Elicia Dover reports: In an interview with ABC News' Jonathan Karl, Gingrich said the role of professor is "who I am." "I believe in learning, which I love to do. I love to teach and I love to see people grow," Gingrich said. While running for president this year, Gingrich was often went into "professor mode" while on the stump and was lauded for his knowledge on almost any subject during debates - sometimes even appearing to "school" the other candidates. He received several standing ovations for correcting debate moderators. http://abcn.ws/PgO4Bu
PAUL RALLIES SUPPORTERS IN TAMPA. ABC's Jason Volack reports: Paul took center stage at his "We Are the Future" rally at the University of South Florida. Animated and witty, he stuck to the message of limited government, the central theme of his presidential bid and a message he has been delivering all of his life. "We want to get the government out of the business it's not supposed to be doing," Paul said. Paul's rally sometimes resembled a rock concert. Fans wearing shirts with his name and image stood under colorful lights drinking tap beer and listened to Blues Traveler frontman John Popper perform ahead of Paul's remarks. Many carried signs and shouted for the elimination of the I.R.S. and the Federal Reserve banking system. http://abcn.ws/PgOQym
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX:
-TEA PARTY EXPRESS: WE WON. In a memo to reporters, Tea Party Express founder and Chief Strategist Sal Russo took the Republican National Convention as an opportunity to reflect on how tea partiers have come to steer the GOP since the movement's founding in 2009: "The tea party movement has proven to be an historically significant political movement in only the past 3 years. The tea party success is in full display this week at the GOP Convention here in Tampa. … The prime-time speakers at the RNC are loaded with new people, including tea party favorites Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Rand Paul, Governor Scott Walker, Governor Nikki Haley, Governor Chris Christie, and many others. Every indication is the GOP platform has been focused on the tea party signature issue - reducing the size, cost, and intrusiveness of the federal government, while promoting pro-growth, free market policies that will allow our economy to grow. That means this convention is led by a tea party presidential nominee, a tea party vice-presidential nominee, a speakers list overflowing with fresh tea party faces, and a tea party platform - I would call that a 'grand slam.'"
-MOVE ON STEPS ON TAMPA MESSAGE. "Today, MoveOn.org Political Action is out with a new 30-second TV ad entitled 'Stepping on the Middle Class,' which features a Romney-Ryan look-alike duo walking toward a convention stage and literally stepping on the middle class - students, firefighters, seniors, and children - along the way. As the duo reach the stage, we hear Mitt Romney accepting the nomination for President of the 1%. The ad is aimed at conveying to voters how Romney and Ryan would raid the middle class to transfer wealth to the top 1%. … The ad will start running today and stay on the air throughout the Republican National Convention. It will appear on several cable news channels in Tampa." WATCH: http://bit.ly/Thtqn1
-SCOTT BROWN'S CAMPAIGN LAUNCHES NEW WEB VIDEO TITLED "DESPERATE." Scott Brown's campaign releases a new web video today titled "Desperate." The 60 second ad hits Brown's opponent, Elizabeth Warren, for trying to "distort" Scott Brown's voting record on women's issues. "There's an old saying in campaigns that goes something like 'the more desperate a candidate gets the uglier and more misleading their attacks become" Brown says in the ad. WATCH: http://bit.ly/RnlMtI
-DEMOCRATIC SUPER PAC HITS HOUSE CANDIDATE IN WASHINGTON'S FIRST DISTRICT. The House Majority PAC, a pro-Democratic super PAC supporting Democratic house candidates is out with a new web video in the first congressional district of Washington state. The ad, titled "Something's Not Right," attempts to highlight a tie between republican candidate John Koster and Rush Limbaugh, citing a resolution Koster sponsored in the state legislature that honored Limbaugh. "John Koster was in the state legislature for six years and his priority was honoring Rush" the ad says. WATCH: http://bit.ly/QI1VR
@jonward11: "My opponent is a weird rich vampire capitalist …" - Rove's opinion of the Obama campaign message
@ZekeJMiller: ICYMI: Grassroots Press For Convention Floor Fight Over Romney's "Power Grab" http://www.buzzfeed.com/zekejmiller/grassroots-press-for-convention-floor-fight-over-r … via @buzzfeed
-Mitt Romney is in Wolfeboro, N.H.
-President Obama is in Washington, DC.
ABC's Josh Haskell ( @HaskellBuzz)
Check out The Note's Futures Calendar : http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV