The one-day delay of the Republican National Convention shrouds in uncertainty the most carefully scripted political event in the country, putting officials from Mitt Romney’s campaign in the awkward position of making last-minute adjustments to a schedule they spent months planning.
It’s a delicate and important task: Republicans spoke openly about the fact they expected the convention would lift Romney in the polls after voters had their best chance yet to examine the Republican presidential nominee. For a candidate trailing President Obama by only a few points in most polls, any bump in support could spell the difference between winning and losing the election.
Now, they have one less day to make sure it happens.
Publicly, the campaign was confident that three days is enough. Romney adviser Russ Schreifer, who is overseeing the convention, said organizers look forward to “telling Gov. Romney’s story and why he is uniquely qualified to be the next president.
“Although we were planning to do it in four days, we can absolutely do it in three, and we look forward to telling that story,” he said.
The theme of Monday’s programming was to have been telling voters that “we can do better” than the Obama administration. The Romney campaign’s most pressing problem is determining where to move Monday’s speakers. Those on the program that day included some of the party’s most prominent figures, among them former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; onetime presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. In a memo sent to reporters, Priebus said decisions on the new schedule could come as soon as Sunday.
This is the second consecutive GOP convention affected by a hurricane. The 2008 convention was also rejiggered even though Hurricane Gustav landed on the Louisiana coast, far from the festivities in St. Paul. Still reeling from widespread criticism of President Bush’s lackluster response to Hurricane Katrina, the GOP was anxious to show concern for storm victims.
Videos ended up on the cutting room floor. Some speakers lost their slots altogether, while others had to shave a few minutes off their carefully prepared speeches. Similar adjustments are expected over the next few days as a tightly choreographed presentation designed to build excitement leading up to Romney’s acceptance speech will have to be cut back.
“They will have to put together the picture with a few less pieces, but the picture still will be put together,’’ said Republican consultant Ed Goeas, the program director of the 2008 convention. “It is just too weird that we have to deal with this all over again. I feel badly for the convention organizers, but I have every confidence they will be able to put it together.’’
Romney aimed to reset the race two weeks ago when he announced Paul Ryan would be his running mate. The addition of the Wisconsin congressman eager to remake the federal budget was supposed to elevate the debate and allow Romney to focus squarely on the economy.
But the backbiting between the campaigns has continued -- and escalated. Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin’s remarks one week ago regarding “legitimate rape’’ set off a firestorm that forced Romney to clarify his stance on abortion and threatened to tarnish the party’s image with women. Romney’s reference to President Obama’s birth certificate at a Michigan rally on Friday was another distraction.
In a way the weather has evened the playing field, since the Democrats have long planned for a three-day convention next week in Charlotte. But the sudden adjustment to a compressed schedule is yet another hurdle for the Romney campaign in the run-up to the convention.
Coral Davenport contributed.