RNC 2012: In Tampa, most events go on
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By JAMES HOHMANN and GINGER GIBSON | 8/25/12 10:39 PM EDT
TAMPA, Fla. — Republicans may be canceling the first night of their convention, but most other events will still go on as planned Sunday and Monday — at least for now.
The worst part of Tropical Storm — or Hurricane — Isaac isn’t expected to hit the Tampa area until Monday or Tuesday, and many members of state delegations have already arrived here. The weather on Saturday evening was hot and cloudy, but no rain or major winds were evident.
Some flights into Tampa on Sunday were already canceled or re-routed, but there will still be tens of thousands of people on the ground this weekend from all 50 states looking for ways to keep busy. And organizers from state parties, outside groups and others tell POLITICO they want to keep them entertained.
So in some ways the party has already started. Or will start. And then stop, and start again.
On Sunday, Ron Paul’s campaign still expects a crowd of more than 10,000 for a rally with the Texas congressman and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul in the Sun Dome at the University of South Florida.
The convention’s official welcome party for delegates on Sunday is also still happening, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus reiterated twice on a Saturday evening conference call.
Top donors to presumptive nominee Mitt Romney received an email late Saturday saying that the campaign was still assessing its schedule of events, but that registration hours remain the same. Visitors can begin checking in at 2 p.m. Sunday. That is, if they’re able to get here.
Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan is scheduled to arrive in Tampa late Monday after an event in his hometown of Janesville, Wis. The campaign had not announced any change in his plans as of Saturday night. It’s unclear when Romney is scheduled to arrive in Tampa, but he doesn’t speak until Thursday night.
House Speaker John Boehner is already in Tampa, and he still plans to appear at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast on Monday morning. He’s chairing the convention, so he’ll likely wind up speaking Tuesday instead of Monday, when he was originally on the schedule.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who was one of the scheduled Monday prime-time speakers, still plans to attend a 5 p.m. Sunday panel on how conservative women can confront media bias, an organizer said.
Off campus, the Republican Party of Sarasota County plans to go ahead with its Sunday evening event honoring Donald Trump as “Statesman of the Year,” according to both an official from the party and a Trump representative.
A Sunday night party sponsored by a host of big corporations, featuring National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn as the honored guest, is also still on the schedule, a source said.
The Unity Rally 2012, which is being hosted by ex-2012 presidential contenders Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann, is also still happening.
On Monday, which was to be the first full day of official events, many state delegations plan to hold their traditional breakfast delegation meetings as usual. Most state delegates have already arrived in Tampa and are safely ensconced in hotels, where their breakfast meetings are typically held. The trouble is more likely leaving the hotels for the convention center if the weather is poor.
The Massachusetts delegation will continue with plans to hold a breakfast on Monday morning with chairman Bob Maginn, National Committeeman Ron Kaufman and Kerry Healey, the former lieutenant governor who served with Mitt Romney.
Outdoor events are iffier. A Monday golf tournament that was expected to draw House Speaker John Boehner “in all likelihood will be canceled,” according to a representative of co-sponsor Ford.
The American Conservative Union and the Future Majority Project are going ahead on Monday night with their “Nuestra Noche” party at the Cuban Club in Ybor City.
“We are closely monitoring the storm and will heed the direction of emergency personnel, but as of now, our party is still on for Monday night,” said ACU spokesman Laura Rigas.
And Facebook says that, for now, its Monday event, Apps & Drinks, at Glazer Children’s Museum is still on.
For months, scores of media outlets and reporters have been planning coverage of the GOP convention’s nightly speeches and Isaac isn’t likely to throw much of a wrench into that coverage plan. If anything, the prospect of rain-soaked delegates and unpredictable events will only spice up coverage, and allow for some interesting visuals.
POLITICO plans to go ahead with both its Playbook Breakfast and live show on Monday.
The networks were not planning to cover Monday speeches anyway, which is why Ann Romney’s speech was moved to later in the week. Spokesmen for ABC, NBC and CBS said they have no changes planned for Monday.
CNN will run its documentary “Romney Revealed” as planned Sunday night at 8 p.m. ET. Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper will anchor convention and storm coverage — now twinned together — live from Tampa between 9:30 and 11 p.m.
There will definitely be some delayed arrivals, especially from other Gulf states that could be impacted.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is set to speak in Tampa on Tuesday night, is also monitoring the storm from his home state.
“The Governor was slated to speak at the convention in 2008 when Gustav hit, he not only didn’t speak, he didn’t even go,” said spokesman Kyle Plotkin. “He will certainly not leave the state if our people are in peril.”
After Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced that he will not participate so he can deal with the storm, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant announced plans to delay his trip to Tampa as well. Some members of the Mississippi delegation are remaining in the state too, according to a party spokesman.
“Gov. Bryant has delayed his travel to the Republican Convention and continues to monitor weather conditions hourly,” said his spokesman Mick Bullock. “The Governors main concern is the safety of the people of Mississippi.”
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has cancelled his trip to Tampa.
“Governor Bentley and Congressman Jo Bonner have cancelled their trips and will remain in Alabama, just in case Isaac does end up heading our way,” state GOP spokeswoman Shana Kluck said.