US Republicans delay convention as storm bears down

In Tampa on Monday (US time) the air was thick and warm and wet, even during those moments when the rain eased as Tropical Storm Isaac skirted the host city of the Republican National Convention and headed ominously towards New Orleans.

At 2pm the Republican Party's national chairman, Reince Priebus took to the stage, banged a gavel to open the convention and immediately suspended proceedings.

Republicans are not only concerned about the impact the storm could have had on Tampa, but about what havoc it could soon wreak in Louisiana as it gains strength and heads up the Gulf Coast.

The memories of Hurricane Katrina's destruction of New Orleans and former president George Bush's dismal emergency response linger darkly. Isaac is expected to make landfall early on Wednesday.

Convention organisers are now focused on how to use the party's champions to reinvigorate proceedings tomorrow. The day will be "anchored" by Ann Romney, Mitt Romney's increasingly popular wife and the New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, a party official said during a conference late Monday afternoon local time.

Mr Christie is known to fill any room he is in. He is confident, conservative, plain speaking, and markedly overweight. He appears to relish confrontation in debate with reporters, dissenters within his own party's ranks, or anyone else who dares to challenge him in press conferences or town hall forums.

His directness has not only made him popular, but famous nationwide as a potential future leader.

Mrs Romney is warm and has been able to connect with crowds and interviewers in a way that still often eludes her husband, who will formally accept his party's nomination on Thursday, hurricanes aside.

Mr Christie and Mrs Romney will dominate the proceedings for an hour from 10pm on Tuesday night, when the major networks - whose interest in political conventions has waned in recent years – are expected to give the proceedings full coverage.

Rick Santorum, the last of the challengers for the nomination to concede defeat to Mr Romney's relentless and well-funded campaign machine has also been slated to speak.

With the formal proceedings suspended on Monday, many VIPs did not attend the convention site, a fenced-in zone that includes Tampa's convention centre, which houses the 15,000 media in attendance, and a nearby sports stadium in which the formalities will begin on Tuesday.

Australia's former prime minister, John Howard, in town in his role as chairman of the International Democrat Union, an Oslo-based association of conservative governments, stayed away.

Speaking from his hotel room he declined to comment on reports of the recent speech he gave to a Westpac forum advocating an Australian Coalition return to industrial relations reform.

Bored delegates milled about the stadium floor, some dodging security to have photos taken of them at the podium.

In "radio row" where talk show hosts have set up for the event, reporters interviewed whatever politicians they could get their hands on.

The Fox radio host, former Arkansas governor and ultra-conservative convention speaker Mike Huckabee was on air across the crowded passageway from his Fox colleague Geraldo Rivera. A few booths along, the National Public Radio desk sat empty and silent.

Back in the stadium, supporters of the libertarian Ron Paul paraded about in cowboy hats holding up banners and declaring that the Republican machine had silenced them.

On Sunday, thousands of Mr Paul's supporters hosted their own convention at the nearby Sun Dome, and some say they will be back on Tuesday to protest during the official proceedings.

Tampa residents spent much of the day in traffic gridlock caused by heavy rain and heavier security waiting, again, for the party to start.

The story US Republicans delay convention as storm bears down first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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