As Hurricane Isaac strengthens and plots a potential path of destruction aimed at the U.S. Gulf Coast, the Republican campaign for President finds itself captured in the eye of that storm as the schedule and fate of the Republican National Convention now becomes dictated more by wind speeds, tidal surges and landfall timing than by the polling, performances and prime time speaking engagements that were suppose to shape the winning trajectory for the Romney/Ryan ticket in November.
On Sunday, as Isaac trekked across the Caribbean and entered the Southern Gulf of Mexico as a tropical storm, its potential proximity to Tampa, the location of the convention, forced G.O.P. convention organizers to essentially cancel the first day of the four day event. It was a decision based on the priority of personal safety over political performances. And it was the right decision. With over 50,000 visitors traveling to and from an arena that hangs on the edge of Tampa bay as winds in excess of 65 mph swirled torrential rains around the heads of delegates and white caps of a tidal surge that was consuming the land convention goers stood upon, the chance of injury and even death is all too real to ignore. For that reason, the cancellation of the first day’s events at the convention is not just good public policy, it is also good political judgment.
One could see a scenario where a line of 2,000 convention goers waiting to get in to a particular entrance at the Tampa Times Forum became ground zero for a freak accident that saw an electrical power line come down and electrocute those standing in an inch of water while in that line . Or maybe that same line saw dozens in it struck by a store sign that was shredded off a nearby building by a strong gust of wind that carried it into the line of people filing in to the convention. Such tragedy would not only have taken the headline away from the event those people were attending, Republicans would rightfully have to explain how they could be expected to safely run the nation when they could not even safely run their own convention?
So Republicans made the right decision and by putting personal safety first, they also made the right political decision.
But now as the exact track and strength of Isaac continues to develop, even though Tampa and the Republican convention remains on its periphery and largely outside of the storms most violent conditions, it is anticipated to strike areas of the Northwestern Gulf Coast and right about when the prime time coverage of the convention is to begin on Tuesday night.
Isaac currently remains a tropical storm but as it meanders over ocean waters that approach temperatures in excess of 90 degrees and is expected to slow down and continue gaining strength from those temperatures, it is expected to become a hurricane with winds up 95 mph and a tidal surge that could range anywhere from 6 to 12 feet high. Just as Isaac builds up to that strength its eye is expected to be fast approaching the Gulf Coast somewhere around Louisiana and Mississippi at the same time that Republicans begin to make their case for Mitt Romney.
While the convention itself will be taking place approximately 450 miles from ground zero for the landfall of Isaac’s eye, its participants will not be in any danger by any means but just as people like Ann Romney are suppose to be praising her husband and pointing to the merits of his becoming their next President, a few million Americans from the coast of East Texas to the western panhandle of Florida will be experiencing the most damaging effects of Hurricane Isaac. This does not create an appropriate setting for a national political celebration. Putting aside for a moment the paramount concern for life and property that will be in jeopardy, the Republican convention would find itself sharing a split screen that is displaying images of roofs being blown off of homes in New Orleans as a throng of jubilant convention goers waving flags and banners while wearing odd hats as they cheer the hard hitting words of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie offering the G.O.P. keynote address. The surreal dichotomy between the havoc of Isaac and the hoopla of Christie or other engaging Republican speakers would leave a negative impression on those witnessing the spectacle which could be extraordinarily detrimental to Republicans.
So it is with justifiable caution that Republicans are now prepared to augment their convention even more than they already have by cancelling the first day of its schedule. it is all contingent upon exactly how powerful Isaac will ultimately be as it hits the Gulf Coast and how damaging its torrential rains will be in the days following landfall as the jet stream sweeps its waterlogged remnants over the Eastern U.S. from the Gulf states to the New England states.
The consideration of additional changes to the convention and even its possible cancellation is based upon worst case scenarios and it is the worst case scenario which plays a significant role in the predictions and public warnings issued regarding Isaac. Hopefully the worst case scenario will not come to fruition. But if it does, Republicans will be prepared to deal with it accordingly. However, as the G.O.P. prepares for all the possible scenarios they know that no matter what, they will share the headlines with Hurricane Isaac. That will ultimately have at least a minimal impact on the bounce that Republicans get out of their convention but it will not drastically alter the final outcome of the election.
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