Spencer Platt/GETTY IMAGES Republican delegate Rachel Bolch Thach walks along a rainy beach on Tampa on Sunday as the the city is prepares for the start of the Republican National Convention. Tropical Storm Isaac threatens disruptions due to its proximity to the Florida peninsula.
TAMPA—There is an art to dealing with hurricanes.
As a vacationer, I have fled.
But waiting here for what Republicans are calling a “weather event” to run its course so this party can try to sell a softer, more gender-friendly, regular man-of-the-people Mitt Romney to the American electorate is a different style of storm-watching.
It seems Republicans are always waiting.
Four years ago, we sat in Minnesota, waiting for Hurricane Gustav to vent its anger on the Gulf Coast while another hurricane — one named Sarah Palin — was held hostage in a hotel room being frantically briefed on everything from Russia to Republican history, from Congress to Cuba.
In 2012, Republicans have waited for the party to overcome its enthusiasm gap and rally behind the former Massachusetts governor, who was always the man destined to be its nominee, no matter how many times the party was jerked back to the non-Mitt flavour of the month.
They are waiting for his natural advantage on the economy to come to the fore, to take advantage of the agenda of hope from Barack Obama, who has seen it smash on the shoals of reality over the past four years.
The Obama campaign is working hard to paint the Republican ticket as a trifecta of Romney, his running mate Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Missouri Congressman Todd Akin, he of the infamous “legitimate rape’’ comment and his belief that a woman’s body somehow shuts down and avoids pregnancy in such cases.
The party is also still dealing with an official platform that would outlaw abortion without making explicit exemptions for rape or incest. Ryan was one of the cosponsors of a similar bill in Congress.
Such social questions — the same questions that have been constantly swatted down in Canada by Prime Minister Stephen Harper — are as much of a wild card here as a storm that is eerily bearing down on New Orleans on the seventh anniversary of its fatal collision with Katrina.
The vagaries of a vicious storm and the carnage which it can cause dwarfs politics, but this is not a Republican party and Romney is not a political nominee who can afford to have his moment in prime time blown off course.
Even as Fox tried desperately to humanize him Sunday, Romney was having none of it.
We learned he and wife Ann like to shop at Costco: Mitt buys shirts there — and irons his own shirts.
But even when asked about his eight-year journey to his scheduled nomination Thursday, a path which his father travelled before faltering, Romney refused to be drawn in by sentimentalism and introspection.
Republicans cannot afford to have his big moment Thursday beamed into U.S. homes with a split screen of a hurricane hitting the Gulf Coast.
Tim Harper is a national affairs writer. His column appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday