A wet time in the old town: the damper on the GOP in Tampa

You know when they talk about storms of biblical proportions?

Isaac the hurricane-to-be is one of those, but with a twist.

Isaac is a figure in the book of Genesis, the son of the patriarch Abraham, and the object of a kind of divine Old Testament game of chicken.

PHOTOS: 2012 Republican convention

God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as proof of his devotion to God. Abraham had the knife in hand when God, at the last minute, said, OK, you really do believe in me -- go sacrifice that ram over there in the bushes instead.

Soon-to-be-Hurricane Isaac is bearing down on the Gulf Coast, and even if it doesn’t touch Tampa, the impact is already being felt. The Republican convention has canceled its first day of official events, including the formal nomination of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and a speech by his wife, Ann.

Republicans seem to be haunted by the specter of 2008, when Republicans were haunted by the specter of 2005.

In 2008, I was covering the Republican convention, which was way up in Minnesota, out of hurricane territory but not out of the range of split-screen PR. In 2008, Hurricane Gustav was creating destruction, evacuations and deaths -- and positioned to revive the unfortunate images of 2005 and Hurricane Katrina, when President George W. Bush’s response to the catastrophe was regarded as inadequate and detached.

Bush and his vice president, Dick Cheney, canceled plans to show up at the convention, and then, as now, Republicans canceled their first-day events and ordered up a day of service and prayer. No one wanted comic convention hats and “Go McCain” buttons split-screened on CNN with images of flooded cities and floundering Americans, especially in New Orleans, which is in the hurricane’s path once again.

Liberal Web posters are having a field day mocking the GOP as the party that doesn’t believe in global warming getting shellacked by global warming.

But it’s not just a matter of political optics. Serious safety issues could threaten the GOP faithful, and how the party handles this wild pitch at an event that’s scripted tighter than the Oscars will be a big impression voters take away. In fact, I expect more people will be tuning in to watch the convention now, because of Isaac’s potential for disruption, than they would have if matters were going according to all conventions’ not-a-hair-out-of-place plan (why do you think Ron Paul isn’t speaking in Tampa?).

At this rate, they may just get better ratings than the Weather Channel.


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