It takes more than a tropical storm to dampen the spirit of a delegate. With some 4,400 official delegates and alternates—along with their spouses, friends, and other special guests—converging on Tampa for the Republican National Convention ahead of Isaac’s impact, the glad-handing will go on rain or shine.
Nobody seems to care that the official business of the convention will be put off until Tuesday.
The Mississippi delegation on Sunday evening took three buses to Walt Disney’s Epcot Center, and it hadn’t even been given its convention credentials. The group plans to meet on Monday afternoon at Splitsville, “the swankiest bowling alley in Tampa,” said Ellen Jernigan, vice chairwoman of the Mississippi Republican Party, a delegate who is accompanied by her husband, John. “If you can’t go to the convention at all, you go to Splitsville,” she said.
“The only thing I worried about was getting here,” said fellow Mississippi delegate Beverly Taylor, who drove 11 hours on Saturday with her husband, Don. The sole Mississippi delegate who seems to be affected is alternate Leonard Bentz, the state’s Public Service Commission chairman, who is flying home on Monday to deal with the storm. “This is my first convention,” he said. “I’m very disappointed.” But Bentz’s mother, Gayle, is staying put in Tampa while her son tends to official business at home. “I’m retired,” she explained. “They don’t need me.”
The Wisconsin delegates—all 250 of them—aren’t canceling their events either. The only hitch might be a Tuesday fundraiser for senatorial candidate Tommy Thompson, their state’s former governor. That event is scheduled to take place on a boat, which could be problematic if the waters are choppy, according to Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, a delegate who is also running Thompson’s campaign.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was in high spirits on Sunday at the Florida Aquarium as he posed for photos with Michigan delegates and two of Mitt Romney’s sons, who showed up at the four-hour brunch with their families. Snyder shrugged off the weather. “It’s good because it shows resiliency ... and good focus on the goal.”
“It adds a little interest and variety,” said Ben Romney, who arrived in Tampa on Saturday night with his wife and 3-year-old daughter. Asked if he brought rain gear, he laughed: “Not enough. I didn’t think through everything.”
“We’re from San Diego, so maybe we’ll get to see a storm,” said Mary Romney, who is married to another of Mitt’s five sons, Craig.
Renee Dabbs, a Florida political consultant who has organized the Washington state delegation’s stay at a beachside Holiday Inn in Clearwater, said that the Washington group doesn’t have a backup hotel in case a storm surge threatens. But she also said that evacuations wouldn’t be necessary. The delegation is going ahead with a breakfast featuring David Bossie, of Citizens United, on Monday morning.
Some Washington state delegates are disappointed that they won’t hear from Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who had been slated to speak on Monday. But they won’t have to wait long: Convention officials said that McMorris Rodgers will speak on Tuesday.
Missouri delegate Joe Patton learned of the convention’s delay via conference call while driving to Tampa. “I’m not disappointed at all. You can’t fight the weather,” he said.
Patton has some unusual plans for Monday: He’s going skeet shooting with his House member, Rep. Billy Long. Later that evening, Patton plans to join other Missouri delegates to watch Long perform stand-up at a local comedy club. “He’s funny. The guy is really funny,” Patton said.
Tim Alberta contributed