TAMPA — This feels familiar.
Four years ago, the first day of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul was canceled. Hurricane Gustav was heading toward the Gulf Coast, and GOP leaders didn’t want to appear insensitive in the event of a Katrina-like disaster. Fortunately, Gustav didn’t end up causing damage on that scale.
Today, day one of the RNC is canceled once again. This time it wasn’t just for sensitivity’s sake; Republican leaders were worried that Tropical Storm Isaac would make travel to the convention center difficult or impossible for delegates. As it turns out, Tampa has been only marginally more affected by Isaac than St. Paul was by Gustav. It’s been raining intermittently, but not enough to cause any major flooding, and the National Weather Service has canceled the tropical storm warning for the area. The convention could have easily gone on; most of the parties and sideline events outside the convention hall are continuing as planned. (UPDATE: Given the downpour that started about 10 minutes after this was posted, I should probably clarify that it’s not impossible that flooding could become a serious issue after all; it just hasn’t yet.)
But Isaac could still strike the Gulf Coast at hurricane strength, which raises the question of whether the party might want to cancel part of the procedings for the same reason they did during Gustav. On a conference call yesterday, a GOP spokesman wouldn’t rule out the possibility of changing the schedule again, even though they’ve already compressed a four-day program into three days.
Party conventions have (for a few reason) been scheduled later in recent cycles than in the past; 2004 was the first time that a convention was held in September. As it happens, hurricane season peaks in late August through September. If the convention schedules are at the mercy of the weather even outside the host city, perhaps it’s time to move the conventions back to July.
In the meantime, here’s hoping that Isaac stays relatively weak — and not primarily because of its effect on the RNC, of course.