Isaac forces Republican convention planners to be 'nimble'
Tropical storm on course for New Orleans could further shake up party's abbreviated 3-day event
Lane Turner is just excited to be in Tampa, and to be a "part of history."
Turner is slated to perform two songs at Tuesday's first full day of events at the Republican National Convention. His tracks' titles – Blood, Sweat and Freedom and I Built It – fit in with the anticipated themes of the party's overall message in the coming days.
"It's really a tremendous honour," Turner told CBC News inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
With a broad smile, black cowboy hat and warm Texas drawl, Turner recalled meeting his wife Paula, a Canadian from Selkirk, Man., at the Calgary Stampede.
But as tropical storm Isaac approaches the U.S. Gulf Coast and Republican organizers vow to be "nimble" in the face of the storm threatening to make landfall in the region on the seventh anniversary of the Hurricane Katrina disaster, Turner, along with numerous other performers and speakers, could see their stage time reduced or cut if further changes are made to the schedule.
The convention, initially scheduled to start on Monday, had been in a holding pattern for a day as organizers opted to put safety first, leaving delegates and organizers spread over hotels across Tampa warily viewing updates on Isaac’s progress.
But while the convention area itself was largely spared any severe weather aside from rain, the storm is now on a straight path for New Orleans, a city devastated by Katrina and left scarred by the responses to the aftermath of municipal, state and federal government officials – especially the Republican president at the time, George W. Bush.
3 states declare emergencies
Isaac is expected to make landfall along the Gulf Coast early Wednesday morning. Three Gulf Coast states have already declared a state of emergency – Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, where most residents learned to take every storm seriously after Katrina.
Back in Tampa, Republicans are eager to avoid comparisons to Katrina during their convention, as well as having television coverage of their event compete for airtime with images of Isaac’s damage.
Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said organizers are still "planning on having all three days" of the convention.
"That's the plan right now," Priebus said Monday afternoon. "But I will tell you we are going to be nimble, if we have to do anything to incorporate some of the occurrences around this into our schedule and program."
Some delegates from the threatened areas expressed mixed feelings about being safe from the storm but away from their homes and loved ones.
Mike Bayham, a convention delegate from St. Bernard Parish in New Orleans, insists organizers made a mistake with the timing and location of this event. Conventions, Bayham told CNN, "need to go back in July."
"Having the convention in Tampa was probably not a good idea in peak of hurricane season but uh there's no need for the conventions to be this late," he said.
Romney’s wife, Christie among Tuesday speakers
Assuming Tuesday’s schedule goes ahead as planned, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is expected to get a primetime boost from one of his campaign’s strongest assets: his wife, Ann Romney.
Convention organizers are seeking to emphasize Romney’s personal story as a father, husband and business leader in an attempt to convince Americans he is a better alternative to Democratic incumbent Barack Obama in November’s election.
Romney, a former Massachusetts governor who has amassed an estimated $200-million fortune, has struggled on the campaign trail to connect with voters on a likeability scale. Ann Romney’s speech is expected to emphasize her husband's warmer, more human side with his family away from the campaign spotlight.
Also among Tuesday’s scheduled speakers is one of Romney’s staunchest supporters, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a conservative favourite who is expected to let loose on Obama’s policies and his handling of the country's economic recovery.