Washington – Expecting to be walloped by Tropical Storm Isaac, which is forecast to reach hurricane strength, organizers of the Republican National Convention decided to delay most of the event’s opening day activities until Tuesday afternoon.
Isaac is expected to reach Florida’s Gulf Coast late Sunday. Tampa, the host city of the GOP convention, is likely to be pummeled by the storm’s wind and rains early Monday — what had been scheduled to be the first day of the convention.
Officials from the Republican National Committee and Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign decided unanimously late Saturday to open the convention on Monday morning and immediately recess until Tuesday afternoon.
In a conference call, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said they had made the decision “based on the best advice possible.”
“We decided ‘Let’s be safe and move the convention from Monday until Tuesday,’” Priebus said.
Isaac’s exact path through the Gulf of Mexico is still not known, though forecasters expect it to skirt Florida’s western coast as it heads northwest.
But convention officials have been in “constant contact” with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, the U.S. Secret Service and federal, state and local emergency management officials, Preibus said.
Jerry Labriola, the chairman of Connecticut’s Republican Party who is leading the state’s delegation of 53 delegates and alternates and 60 guests, said no other events have been cancelled so far, including a massive party scheduled for Sunday night for delegates from all the states.
Labriola also said none of Connecticut’s delegates to the convention, many whom are arriving in Tampa Sunday, have cancelled their trip “to my knowledge.”
“But they are turning a four-day convention into a three-day convention,” Labriola said.
Connecticut’s delegation is staying on a beachfront hotel on Treasure Island in the Gulf Coast. That hotel, the Bilmar Beach Resort, could be vulnerable to Isaac’s winds and storm surge.
“The Convention staff is working around-the-clock to ensure the delegations housed in storm-impacted areas have alternative housing if needed,” Priebus said.