How to kill time at the rain-soaked GOP convention
Let's say you invited everyone you knew to a massive party, but you had to push back the start time. What if all your guests showed up early anyway?
This roughly describes the situation in Tampa on Monday, where thousands of delegates, journalists and visitors are waking to a wet, windy morning with no official schedule.
Rather than focusing on political news, most eyes are riveted by the weather forecast. Tropical Storm Isaac is rolling westward across the Gulf of Mexico where forecasters predict it will strengthen into a hurricane. It's expected to reach land somewhere between Louisiana and Florida on Tuesday or Wednesday.
The prospect of a major storm battering the Gulf Coast exactly seven years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina is frightening all in its path. It's also unnerving Republican strategists: the convention will share the media spotlight with the storm and the party will have to tread carefully to avoid charges of insensitivity to any damage.
When asked about the storm on Sunday, Mitt Romney told reporters, "Hope everybody's fine there. Concerned about the people that are gonna be affected by it." Mr. Romney was in New Hampshire, where he is preparing for his primetime acceptance speech in Tampa later this week. He also added: "It'll be a great convention."
Tampa is not in the direct path of the storm but will witness plenty of rain and gusty winds. A tornado watch is in effect for the area. In that kind of weather, what is a delegate to do? Here are some options:
1. Witness some very wet protests
Demonstrators from various groups are vowing to continue their marches as planned, despite the weather. A large contingent is expected to arrive near the convention venue later Monday morning in a rally focused on the themes of the Occupy movement – ending inequality and combatting corporate greed. The rain may dampen the number of people who attend, but not their enthusiasm. "We're here because we want to make the world a better place," said Zoe Alif, 23, told the Tampa Bay Times. "Rain or shine, we'll be there."
2. Catch maybe ten minutes of convention action
At 2 p.m. this afternoon, the Republican National Convention will be officially called into session when Reince Priebus, the event's chairman, strikes his gavel. Then he will declare the event to be in recess until Tuesday. Mr. Priebus will also take the opportunity to turn on a "Debt Clock," a prominent feature of the convention stage which shows the second-by-second growth of the national debt.
3. Find movers and shakers
As with every national convention, a host of unofficial events are underway, ranging from briefings to brunches. There will be some very big cheeses on hand Monday, though to meet them you'll have to have coveted invitations and brave some wet weather. House Speaker John Boehner is on hand for a sold-out golf fundraiser on Monday for those not afraid to hit the links in the rain. Newt Gingrich, formerly a contender for the Republican presidential nomination, is holding a policy seminar on the topic of jobs, economic growth, and Medicare. The hottest ticket? An exclusive bash Monday night dubbed "Nuestra Noche" and featuring the Republican party's top Latino leaders, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez.
4. Do something else entirely
Do you like political sandcastles? Or earnest documentaries? Or gambling? These, too, are options for a very rainy Monday. One person travelling with the Connecticut delegation told your correspondent Sunday evening that he planned to spend Monday at a nearby casino, waiting for the real action to start.