GOP Postpones Start of Republican National Convention Due to Hurricane Isaac Threat
TAMPA, Fla. - Republicans have cut short their national convention by one day due to the looming threat of a severe storm that is about to pound the state of Florida, party officials announced today.
Less than 48 hours before the Republican National Convention was set to begin here, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said that the possibility of "severe transportation difficulties due to sustained wind and rain" brought by Tropical Storm Isaac, which meteorologists predict will become a hurricane by Monday, forced convention planners to scrap Monday's scheduled activities.
"Due to the severe weather reports for the Tampa Bay area, the Republican National Convention will convene on Monday August 27th and immediately recess until Tuesday afternoon, August 28th, exact time to follow," Priebus said in a statement announcing the postponement. "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."
Instead, party officials, said Monday's speaking lineup would be squeezed into the remaining three days of the convention and that they would be releasing more details about the revised schedule as early as Sunday.
Monday's RNC program was to include the roll call vote of delegates officially nominating Mitt Romney as the party's presidential nominee. The nomination is now likely to take place on Tuesday, according to Romney strategist Russ Schriefer, who briefed reporters on a conference call today.
"We expect the roll call will just take place on Tuesday," Schriefer said. "It will take place right around the same time that it was going to take place on Monday, really with very little change."
On the same call, Priebus emphasized that the convention would go on.
"This is a Monday issue," he said, noting that he knew of no state delegations that had cancelled plans to travel to Tampa for the week.
"The safety of those in Isaac's path is of the utmost importance," Romney tweeted after the announcement was made on this evening. "I applaud those in Tampa making appropriate schedule changes."
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, said that he had briefed Romney "on the storm and possible impact to the state" earlier in the day.
"I have made Governor Romney and RNC officials aware of the resources our state can provide in the chance Tampa is affected," Scott said in a statement. The governor also announced that he was cancelling all of his scheduled convention-related activities on Sunday and Monday. He was originally scheduled to speak on Monday night.
As convention officials were changing course today, Tropical Storm Isaac was heading north toward Miami. It is expected to strengthen to a hurricane and make landfall in the Florida keys on Sunday evening, and then move westward into the Gulf of Mexico, making landfall near Panama City Beach on Tuesday. The storm is currently forecast to pass about 200 miles west of Tampa on Monday night and early Tuesday, but the storm's wind field is large, meaning that Tampa is still expected to feel its affects, with wind gusts of up to 50 mph expected in the area.
Hillsborough county - the county where Tampa is located - has declared a state of emergency, as has the state of Florida. The Tampa Bay Times Forum, the site of the convention, is located on the water - a vulnerable position in a storm of Isaac's magnitude.
The first day of the convention was originally designed as an opportunity to showcase what Schriefer called the "failures of the Obama administration over the past four years." The night was to include testimonials from "real people affected by the Obama economy." The goal of that first night, Schriefer said, was to "lay down the predicate and make the case of why President Obama has failed."
In addition to the roll call votes nominating Romney for president and Paul Ryan for vice president, Monday's speaking schedule was set to include a handful of party luminaries with official roles in the convention process: RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, House Speaker John Boehner, former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, among others.
ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield and Chris Good contributed reporting from Tampa.