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GOP delegates keep busy despite Isaac delay

Posted: August 27, 2012 2:00 p.m.
Updated: August 27, 2012 2:00 p.m.

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Dorothy Crockett wasn't about to let Isaac keep her from a minute of the Republican National Convention.

As the tropical storm churned toward the Gulf Coast, lashing Florida along the way, Crockett made her way to the arena for the convention's truncated opening — the only official event not canceled on Monday.

"The only hurricane I want to experience is the Republicans taking over the House, the Senate and the White House," said Crockett, a 77-year old delegate from Osceola, Ark., decked out in red, white and blue from her jacket to her earrings. "This is the Republican hurricane."

Delegates biding their time until events ramp up Tuesday spent the day reuniting with fellow Republicans, getting pep talks from party leaders and holding rallies with governors. Some said they were stocked with reading material. Others showed up to the mostly empty arena to scope out their seats and to take photos in front of the empty podium.

Plus, there are always the parties — catered receptions scheduled from morning to night.

"We're in an upbeat mood," said Stan Stein, the North Dakota Republican Party chairman. "A little bit of weather isn't going to stop us from doing what we need to do."

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus opened the convention Monday with the pound of the gavel, then less than two minutes later, called a recess until Tuesday, when Republicans will commence a condensed three-day nominating confab for Mitt Romney and his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.

In downtown Tampa, delegates said they were using the downtime to trade stories and strategies with Republicans from all over the country. "I don't look at it like I'm losing a day. I feel like I'm gaining a day to catch up with old friends," said Sol Grosskopf, a Wisconsin delegate and seminary student.

The Wisconsin delegation got a morning briefing from Preibus, who chaired their state party before his election as national party chief, and Gov. Scott Walker before assembling for a group photo. At his hotel not far from the convention arena, first-time delegate Jeff Johns from Cedarburg, Wis., savored the chance for a breather after having been on the go ever since his weekend arrival.

"This is the most relaxed I've been since I've been here," he said, reading a newspaper in the lobby. "I've been on my feet the whole time."

Delegates described being underwhelmed by the weather — a little wind here, some clouds there — which in Tampa fell short of the potential inclement weather that led RNC officials to cancel the first day in the interest of safety.

"We didn't even take umbrellas this morning. We didn't need them," said Pennsylvania delegate Marion Taxin after returning from an event at the city's aquarium with her home-state governor.

Delegate Tom Del Beccaro, who heads the California GOP, said his state's delegates were revved up from a morning rally with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and predicted the bottled-up energy would spill into an even more animated convention starting Tuesday.

Meanwhile, delegates from New York, South Dakota, North Dakota, Rhode Island and Wisconsin were gearing up for a joint "party on the pier" event that had been scheduled for 11 p.m. Monday but was bumped up to early evening take advantage of the hours they would have spent listening to GOP luminaries John Boehner and Mike Huckabee.

With Isaac barreling toward the coast near New Orleans just before Hurricane Katrina's seventh anniversary, GOP officials in Gulf states called off their plans to attend the convention. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal scrapped his much-awaited speech on Wednesday.

The catastrophic Katrina barreled into New Orleans as a Category 5 storm with winds topping 157 miles per hour and churning up a storm surge that breached the levees that held back Lake Ponchartrain from the city. More than 80 percent of the city was flooded and close to 2,000 deaths were blamed on the storm.

But delegates said they weren't concerned that the decision to proceed with the festivities with potential disaster looming would strike some as tone-deaf.

To cancel the convention, the delegates said, would be to abdicate their responsibility to represent the voters who sent them to Tampa.

"The convention certainly is full of the ceremonial and the balloons, but we have to officially nominate a candidate," said state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe of Pennsylvania. "It's an official duty that has to occur."

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.




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