Short day starts GOP convention
Spirits high even as Isaac nears
TAMPA, Fla. – The convention hall had all the trappings: Excited delegates in patriotic attire. Journalists sticking cameras in their faces. Vertical signs identifying the states. Balloons suspended high above the arena floor. But the official first day of the 2012 Republican National Convention was over almost as soon as it began.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus called the convention to order at 2 p.m. Two minutes later, he dropped the gavel on the day, thus presiding over quite possibly the most abbreviated convention day ever. With a worrisome storm approaching the Gulf Coast, Republicans felt compelled to cancel the first day. The session took place only to satisfy the rules.
Despite the lack of action, delegates showed up in surprising numbers on the floor of the Tampa Bay Times Forum. More than 4,400 delegates and alternates, as well as thousands of elected officials, party donors and activists, have descended on Tampa. With about 15,000 credentialed journalists and an unknown number of protesters, the population has swelled by an estimated 50,000.
A day’s delay in the tightly choreographed convention may have caused headaches for organizers, but many delegates reacted with equanimity.
“We’re excited just to be here,” said Wisconsin delegate Kathy Kiernan, 64, who said she and her colleagues were greeted at the Tampa airport by a barbershop quartet singing “God Bless America.” Thanks to the newly elevated status of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, who will be nominated as Mitt Romney’s running mate Wednesday, Badger State delegates have choice seats on the convention floor. “Paul Ryan, he’s a hometown guy,” Kiernan said. “We knew him since before he was shaving.”
On Monday morning, the popular New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was a sought-after breakfast guest, firing up delegations around town.
“He put an energy level in that room today that was second to none,” said Wayne King, vice chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party.
But for all the celebrating and postponing, one thing remains a priority: “In 72 days, we want to win the election,” King said. “Everything else is secondary.”
Many who trekked through rain and wind to get to Monday’s nano-session said they hope the convention will give Americans the opportunity to see a side of Romney he rarely shows.
“Mitt Romney is a fantastic family man,” said Ada Fisher, a Republican National Committee member from North Carolina. “If you watched the CNN special” – the network’s documentary “Romney Revealed” – “I loved the part where Ann Romney talked about having MS and she couldn’t move and he got up in bed with her and just comforted her. I think all of us, particularly women, can relate to that. I think it’s a side they are going to paint. Show the good things.”
Many delegates expressed concern for those who may be in the path of a potential Hurricane Isaac, but they were unfazed by the weather’s effect on the convention.
“We’re excited. We’re getting ready to gavel in and look forward to three days of fun-packed, patriotic excitement,” said Doyle Webb, chairman of the Arkansas Republican Party.