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GOP delegates stew as storm fizzles

- The Washington Times - Monday, August 27, 2012

TAMPA, Fla. — In retrospect, the decision to cancel all of Monday's events at the 2012 Republican National Convention may have been a bit, well, conservative.

The skies were sunny and the breezes mild outside the Tampa Bay Times Forum as Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus gaveled the meeting to order Monday and promptly recessed in an abundance of caution over Isaac, a tropical storm strengthening to a hurricane.

The storm failed to make its scheduled appearance Monday, whiffing on Tampa and veering west toward the Mississippi and Louisiana coasts. Instead of hunkering down in their hotels, about two-thirds of the 2,286 delegates turned out to cheer the start of the convention and mingle with fellow Republicans.

More than a few delegates rolled their eyes over the party's decision to pull the plug on Monday's schedule.

"We have worse storms than this every winter," said Oregon delegate Les Moore. "I've actually been in Florida during hurricanes. At least the rain here is warm and not cold like in Oregon."

Hawaii delegate Christine Sutton agreed that the cancellation "might have been overkill," but added that she understood the party's concern with safety, especially given the large number of delegates unfamiliar with tropical weather.

"There are a lot of people here who haven't been in hurricanes," said Mrs. Sutton. "I personally didn't think it was necessary [to cancel events], but I'm not from Florida. Here the weather can change at any moment."

The convention was officially in order for less than a minute before Mr. Priebus called it into recess. Afterward, he asked delegates to stand and acknowledge the region's emergency workers.

"I'd like to take a moment to recognize the hard work of the security personnel, emergency responders and volunteers who are working to keep all convention attendees and all of those in the path of Hurricane Isaac out of harm's way," said Mr. Priebus.

He also pointed to two digital "debt clocks" that will run throughout the event, showing the growth of the national debt as well as the debt that accumulates during the four-day convention, saying they represent "the unprecedented fiscal recklessness of the Obama administration."

Delegates remained seated for a prayer and a brief video showcasing presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, after which they were free to move about and chat with other delegates.

Of course, nature abhors a vacuum, and so do Ron Paul supporters. With no scheduled events and a roomful of press searching for news, two dozen Paul backers held a makeshift rally on the convention floor, waving pro-Paul signs under a banner that read, "We Can Do Better," and chanting "President Paul!"

The Paul demonstrators were particularly concerned with the party's refusal to grant a speaking slot to Mr. Paul, as well as what they described as RNC efforts to replace unruly delegates with those supporting Mr. Romney.

"Ron Paul is still a candidate for the Republican nomination, so why isn't he allowed to speak?" said Oregon delegate Jon Antoine. "He deserves to be here, he deserves to speak, and we deserve to vote."

Added fellow Oregon delegate Larry Ericksen: "We didn't come here to declare anyone king."

Oklahoma delegate Kenny Bob Tapp said he was disappointed by the cancellation of Monday's events, mainly because he's interested in proposed rule changes that would shift authority over delegate selection from the state parties to the presidential campaigns.

"Hopefully we won't be rushed Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday," he said.

As for Isaac missing Tampa, "I haven't run into a local [Floridian] yet who hasn't laughed at us for canceling," Mr. Tapp said.

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