Republican Convention in Tampa Postponed due to Tropical Storm Isaac

Modern political campaigns are tightly controlled events but no one can control the weather and a storm barrelling towards Tampa has forced the cancellation of the first day of the Republican party's national convention.

Tropical storm Isaac is expected to develop into a hurricane and sweep up Florida's western coastline on Sunday night and Monday morning, missing Tampa directly but dumping heavy rain and causing a storm surge across the low-lying swampy region.

As a result Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus issued a statement nixing the first day of events and throwing a spanner in the carefully choreographed process that will officially nominate Mitt Romney for president.

Priebus said the convention would briefly meet on Monday and then reconvene for Tuesday, leaving Florida's emergency services to face the storm without the huge event going on.

"Our chief priority is the safety of the residents of Florida, of those visiting the convention, and all those in Gulf Coast states who may be impacted by tropical storm Isaac," said Republican national convention president Bill Harris in a statement.

Former Massachusetts governor Romney was campaigning with his running mate, Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan, in the battleground state of Ohio as thousands of delegates, journalists, protesters and party officials arrived in Florida by the planeload. Meanwhile technicians completed the conversion of a hockey arena along Tampa Bay into a red, white and blue-themed convention hall and in downtown Tampa tight security cordons were set up in city streets.

But conventioneers and everyone else arriving in the city now face the same task as more permanent residents of Florida: bedding down to ride out the storm. It is expected to have passed by the end of Monday afternoon, meaning there will be a more crammed schedule for an event now truncated to three days from four.

There will be no impact on Romney's actual nomination though no doubt campaign managers and party officials will be frustrated at the disruption to their carefully laid plans of introducing him to a prime time audience and seeking to get a strong bump in the polls.

However, this is not the first time such an event happened. In 2008 the Republican convention that nominated Arizona senator John McCain also cancelled its first day due to a hurricane. Though that meeting was being held in Minnesota, hurricane Gustav was headed for the Gulf Coast and a decision was taken to cancel the festivities until the impact of the storm was clear.

The opening day had been dubbed "We Can Do Better" and was supposed to highlight the ailing American economy. It was slated to feature ordinary people and other speakers who would address what they considered to be the Obama's administration failure to create jobs and stimulate economic growth.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Paul Harris in Tampa, for guardian.co.uk on Sunday 26th August 2012 01.26 Europe/London

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