Republicans showcase Romney as storm clouds convention
By Matt Spetalnick
TAMPA, Florida (Reuters) - Presidential candidate Mitt Romney flies to Tampa on Tuesday to join fellow Republicans seeking to put their shortened convention back on track and prevent his message from being drowned out by a tropical storm churning toward the Gulf Coast.
Getting down to the first full day of business after Tropical Storm Isaac upended the convention schedule, delegates will formally affirm Romney as the party's nominee in an evening capped by prime time speeches by Romney's wife, Ann, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
Romney, who had originally planned to arrive in Tampa on Thursday to accept his party's nomination, decided to fly in on Tuesday to be on hand for his wife's appearance on the podium, a campaign official said.
Republicans seeking to salvage the convention faced a stiff challenge: help Romney make an aggressive, memorable argument to replace Democratic President Barack Obama while being careful to show sensitivity to those at risk from the storm.
Delegates gathering for the typically festive and partisan event were also under pressure to avoid the appearance of unseemly celebration while the Gulf Coast was under threat. Isaac could hit Louisiana on the 7th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's devastating onslaught on New Orleans.
Tampa was spared the brunt of Isaac's fury. But a destructive landfall between northern Florida and Louisiana in coming days - with the storm forecast to reach hurricane force - threatens to create an uncomfortable split-screen of television images.
The convention will culminate with Romney's nationally televised acceptance speech on Thursday, the biggest speaking engagement of his political life so far. He has spent the past few days rehearsing at his New Hampshire vacation home.
Running even with Obama or slightly behind him in most opinion polls, Romney needs a bounce in popularity from the gathering, particularly in the 10 or so politically divided "swing states," including Florida itself, likely to decide the election. Continued...