Opinion: Bracing For Foul Weather In Tampa

Hurricane season makes for an unwelcome, if not unexpected, distraction for the GOP

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Richard Costigan, a former advisor to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and now a Sacramento lobbyist, was packing rain gear and extra batteries as he prepared to attend his first Republican National Convention as a delegate.

It had already been a bumpy political season, given the long and bitter primary campaign.  And as he headed to Tampa, Costigan told Prop Zero he wasn't thinking too much about the weather - despite the approach of Tropical Storm Isaac.

"I'm excited about going," Costigan said.  "The hurricane, whether it hits or not, doesn't impact my excitement.  If it comes ashore, there'll be a lot of wind and rain.  I actually think it's more important to go to the convention to change the direction of the country."

GOP officials were quickly re-working the convention schedule on Monday as the storm began to hit.

But in a twist that might be considered symbolic of their leaders' hurried moves, delegates were preparing to brave some of the changes in the weather on the fly.

But even as the oncoming storm began to affect parts of Florida and the Gulf Coast,  

"We were told not to bring umbrellas, because we can't bring them into the convention hall" for security reasons, alternate delegate Ana Helman said.

There are a lot of Californians in the same situation. That's because the California delegation will be the largest in  Tampa. Including delegates, alternates, guests and sponsors, the total is more than 750 people.

All this reminds me of four years ago, when another hurricane impacted the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.   With Gustav preparing to make landfall in Louisiana, John McCain agreed to cancel most of the convention's first-day activities.  President Bush, not wishing to draw attention to his handling of Hurricane Katrina three years before, canceled his appearance.  It was a big story on that first day of the convention.

Of course there are hurricanes of the meteorological variety, and those of the political variety. Comedian Jimmy Kimmel recently noted that Hurricane Isaac might be preferable to Hurricane Todd...as in Todd Akin.   The Missouri congressman's recent comments about "legitimate rape" have generated focus on abortion rights at the upcoming convention.

"I think he should resign, " Costigan said of Akin.  "He does not speak for the Republicans,  He doesn't speak for me as a Republican.  To paint the party broadly with that brush isn't fair."

It's a wedge issue that will be part of the coverage in Tampa, but Helman says the economy and job creation is what this election will turn on.

"We've all known people who've lost jobs or are underemployed," Helman said.

Whatever direction Isaac takes, journalists flocking to Tampa won't be able to resist the narrative of strong winds buffeting the party's nominating convention.

And why not? It's a bit of drama at a time when both parties' conventions have become scripted affairs.

Author Kevin Riggs, an Emmy-winning former TV reporter in Sacramento, is Senior Vice President at Randle Communications. The company is in charge of media and logistics for the California delegation.

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