Tropical Storm Isaac is bearing down on Tampa, Fla., altering plans for the 2012 Republican National Convention (RNC), but the big question for political observers is whether Republicans will create their own whirlwind during the historic event.
Conventions are largely “commercials pushing the party message,” and as such are tightly scripted, says associate professor Martin Johnson, chair of Politics at the University of California–Riverside.
“That is one of the interesting things to watch in this convention … the extent to which they can stay on the script,” Johnson said.
Isaac has already forced RNC organizers to cancel events Monday, the first day of the formerly four-day event.
“Our first priority is ensuring the safety of delegates, alternates, guests, members of the media attending the Republican National Convention, and citizens of the Tampa Bay area,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement Saturday.
While weather is one source of concern for convention organizers, smooth running of the event—broadcast across the nation over three nights—is critical to the Republican Party and the Romney presidential campaign.
Convention organizers will want to keep the focus on the economy and jobs, with social issues—many of which are contentious within the party—skirted where possible to avoid upsets, says Jennifer Marsico, political analyst with the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).
“There will be no desire to draw attention to differences within the party,” she said.
Johnson says the party has exhibited major rifts within its ranks this year, making it more difficult to predict how proceedings will unfold.
He referred to supporters of libertarian Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who were rowdy and vocal at some of presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s speeches during the primaries.
“People are still watching what is going to happen with the supporters of Congressman Paul,” Johnson said. “This is a potential source of deviation from the script.”
There is also the risk that Tea Party supporters will make their presence felt, Romney struggling to gain support among more conservative Republicans during the primaries.
“The Tea Party faction of the Republican Party is not a group of people that stays on script,” he said.
While former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, an outspoken Tea Party supporter, was not selected to speak at the convention, newly elected Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who is aligned with Tea Party principles, has been included in the lineup.
Johnson says unscripted moments may not come from the convention floor but from other activities surrounding the event.
“Those are also potential sources of alternative messages of what the Romney campaign would want to see emphasized during that week,” he said.
“The Tea Party faction of the Republican Party is not a group of people that stays on script.”
—Martin Johnson, chair of Politics at the University of California–Riverside.
The RNC had planned to announce Mitt Romney and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as their presidential and vice presidential candidates Monday, a break with the traditional second-to-last night announcement.
Seen by some as much a concern about Tropical Storm Isaac as interference from Ron Paul supporters, the Romney-Ryan announcement will now occur Tuesday.
A video tribute to Ron Paul will be given that night, in line with a request from the Paul camp, said Romney strategist Russ Schriefer, according to Politico.
While the Republican Party platform will be a feature of the convention, high on the priority list will be to broaden the appeal of Romney and Ryan.
Despite contesting the GOP presidential nomination in 2008, Romney remains lesser known than many of the RNC speakers, says Johnson.
“This is an opportunity for the party to introduce him to a broader national audience,” he said “and Congressman Ryan, who is even less known than Governor Romney.”
Romney is not due to appear at the RNC till Thursday, where he will be the center of attention.
Americans may know the public Mitt Romney, governor of Massachusetts; organizer of the 2002 Winter Olympics, and for businesses like Staples and Bain Capital; organizers will present a lesser known, personal side of him, including his Mormon faith.
“Thursday’s program will introduce America to the Mitt Romney his family and close friends know,” said convention CEO William Harris in a statement.
Members of the Mormon church will give testimonials, along with former Olympians, according to Schriefer.
Staying On Message
An array of high profile Republicans will speak during the RNC, many of them governors.
Popular New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, initially considered a 2012 presidential nominee, will deliver the key note speech, the highest profile spot after the presidential and vice presidential nominees.
In what may be a tilt to the Hispanic community, rising star Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has been granted the high-profile position of introducing Romney.
“Christie is known for being a real tough guy not only personally but also on fiscal issues … and Marco Rubio is known for his positions on tax cutting as well, so I think there is a major economic focus” Marsico said, outlining the strategic choice of speakers.
Other speakers include former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Indian American Nikki Haley, the first female governor of South Carolina; and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, the first Hispanic governor in the country.
They are strategic in their appeal to the female vote and broader ethnic communities, says John Hudak, politician analyst with the Brookings Institution, “Two areas where Republicans really are seeking to make inroads.”
Professor Johnson says RNC organizers will be working to keep speakers in line with Republican strategy.
“A successful convention is what stays on message … and to the extent there are distractions from that message poses a challenge to its success,” he said.
The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 19 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.