Tropical storm Isaac can’t stop Mitt Romney nomination
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The first day has already been postponed. But if Isaac barrels into Tampa and prevents the thousands of delegates from gathering at the convention hall, not to worry: Republicans will still have a presidential nominee come November.
With more than 50,000 people expected to descend on Tampa starting this weekend, the idea that the quadrennial party celebration could be a no-go — or even somehow obstructed by a weather event like Tropical Storm or Hurricane Isaac — is a fairly terrifying possibility for Republicans who have been planning the GOP confab for over a year.
And it’s problematic on other fronts, too: Until Mitt Romney is officially nominated as the GOP candidate for president, for example, he can’t access his sizable general election funds or even be officially certified so that states can begin printing his name on their ballots.
Party officials have already considered this. In the worst-case scenario where the Republican convention simply can’t physically occur, the party can still nominate Romney and vice presidential contender Paul Ryan through another process that would be determined by the Republican National Committee.
RNC rules state that, in the event the convention cannot be held as planned, the RNC can outline and vote on another method of its choosing under which to conduct the presidential nominating process.
“If the Republican National Committee determines that the national convention cannot convene or is unable to conduct its business either within the convention site or within the convention city, then and only then, the roll call for nomination for President of the United States and Vice President of the United States shall be allowed to be conducted according to procedures authorized by the Republican National Committee,” the rules say.
If that situation arose, those familiar with the rules say, the 168-member RNC could vote on specific procedures for roll call: the roll call could be done electronically or via telephone, or the RNC could choose another meeting place for the thousands of delegates.
Most RNC members are already in the Tampa area for meetings held over the last week, so they could likely determine a backup plan in person. If those members had to evacuate because of adverse weather conditions, they could make a final decision on how to nominate Romney and Ryan over the phone.
The party’s rules for nomination roll calls were changed in the lead-up to the 2004 convention in New York as a post-9/11 precautionary measure, said a senior Republican involved in the planning.
“There is no such thing as canceling,” said RNC communications director Sean Spicer. “In terms of the business of the RNC, the No. One thing is obviously nominating — officially nominating — Mitt Romney as our presidential candidate and Paul Ryan as our vice presidential candidate.”
The senior Republican source said it’s really not a question of whether the roll call vote will be held, it’s just a question of when.
“We are going to convene the convention according to the call and nominate Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in Tampa,” the Republican said.
The GOPer added that it’s impossible to know the exact timing of the roll call until the path of the storm is clearer.
But this is a scenario the party was aware of when it chose Tampa as its convention site during the height of hurricane season, and it’s a contingency for which both state and party officials have been preparing.
In fact, it’s similar to the situation that arose just four years ago, when Hurricane Gustav threatened to keep delegates from getting to the GOP convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul.
That year was different, in that the convention site itself wasn’t in the path of the storm — but then-presumtive GOP nominee John McCain’s team and the RNC still had to plan carefully for what would happen if the hurricane caused widespread damage and devastation.
“In our case, Minneapolis-St. Paul wasn’t going to be hit by a hurricane: The scenario was what happens if there has been true devastation and it is considered inappropriate to go forward with the convention and all the hoopla,” said Trevor Potter, who served as the general counsel for McCain’s 2008 campaign.
In reality, the only things that must be done at a party convention is to formally nominate the president and vice president, adopt the party platform and approve the party rules, Potter said.
Republicans planned for the possibility of this kind of bare-bones convention in ’08 in case the situation with Gustav worsened, determining that all the essential business could be accomplished in half a day.
“It was possible in the event of a cancelled convention to shorten everything to basically about half a day somewhere, where the party would act to nominate the nominee and adopt the platform and rules in time to certify the nominee to the states,” Potter said, adding that states deadlines have to start printing ballots and must certify the nominees before doing so.
In 2012, the replacement convention couldn’t be held in Tampa while Isaac threatened, so if organizers wanted to get all the delegates together in person, they would have to choose another location outside the path of the storm.
Matt Burns, the communications director for the ’08 convention, said that first and foremost, the RNC and the Romney campaign will focus on the safety of delegates and convention attendees.
“People come before politics and parties — that is the critical message party and campaign officials will be reinforcing if the weather remains an issue,” he wrote in an email to POLITICO.
While weather reports will surely change between now and the start of the convention on Monday, the path of the storm appears to be moving away from the Florida coast and toward the Gulf of Mexico.
The RNC wouldn’t comment on specifics of their contingency plans, but made it clear that it is well prepared for whatever situation arises. And local officials are girding themselves for any storm activity as well: earlier this year, Florida officials held a four-day drill reenacting what would happen if a Category 3 hurricane hit Tampa during the convention.
“We’ve been working on preparations for more than a year ,” said Stacy Williams, a spokeswoman for the Hillsborough County emergency management department. “We will take action and we will work very closely with the RNC committee.”
Jonathan Martin contributed to this report.
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