By Jonathan Easley - 08/26/12 10:09 PM EDT
The Republican National Committee (RNC) and Mitt Romney’s campaign issued a revised convention schedule on Sunday as worries grew that Tropical Storm Isaac could grow into a category 2 hurricane and hit New Orleans later this week.
As thousands of delegates, political operatives, and media members descended on Tampa, it appeared the GOP convention's site might be spared the worst of Isaac. But Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) declared a state of emergency for his state as Isaac's path looked to veer toward New Orleans, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina seven years ago this week.
Senior Romney strategist Russ Schriefer explained Monday’s scheduled activities would be rolled into the rest of the program. Schriefer also appeared to leave open the possibility that the convention, presently scheduled to end Thursday, might be extended through Friday.
“We are planning on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday,” he said. “If the weather changes in a way that we have to make some changes -- it’s a hypothetical question, I don’t want to answer it in that way.”
Such a change would add more scheduling havoc to the convention, and holding events on Friday would be less likely to garner television viewers.
For now, Schriefer said no changes had been made to the primetime speaking slots scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, which include the party’s vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann Romney, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who is slated to introduce the presumptive nominee.
However, Schriefer said some non-headline speakers would be bumped, some speeches would have to be shortened, and the prime-time events would begin an hour early, at 7 pm EST.
The GOP had initially planned for each day of the convention to focus on one theme, and Schriefer said Monday’s message of “Obama’s failed leadership,” would be woven into the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday messages.
This is the second consecutive GOP convention to be affected by a hurricane.
Four years ago, Republicans canceled some events on the first day of their national convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul when Hurricane Gustav struck the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, and the GOP now finds itself in a nearly identical situation.
Isaac is expected to reach hurricane force strength before passing the Florida Keys early Sunday morning, and some parts of southwest Florida have been evacuated. But the storm is expected to veer towards the Mississippi coast, and possibly hit New Orleans on Wednesday, which is the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
“There’s a weather event, we all know that,” Schriefer said when asked about the possibility of the storm hitting New Orleans. “At the same time we’re obviously monitoring what is going on with the weather. Our concern has to be with the people who are in the path of the storm.”
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) declared a state of emergency in Florida on Saturday, a step that will help federal and state officials coordinate their response. Scott, who had been scheduled to speak in Tampa, cancelled his plans to attend the convention and said he would remain in Tallahassee to oversee emergency efforts.
President Obama called Scott on Sunday, offering the federal government's help in responding to the storm
"The president told the governor the people of Florida are in his thoughts during this time," said a readout of the call from the White House.
Obama told Scott the federal government was ready to help provide any assistance the state needed, including for efforts to ensure the safety of visitors to the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
The White House said Obama had received a briefing from Craig Fugate, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Dr. Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center, on the storm’s path and had directed FEMA to coordinate their response with state and local officials.
The White House earlier this weekend cancelled plans for Vice President Joe Biden to campaign in Florida, saying they did not want to divert valuable emergency resources.
For Republican convention organizers, the storm has presented a number of logistical challenges topped by insuring the safety of attendees.
But Isaac also threatens to unravel a carefully planned week where Republicans hoped to introduce Romney to millions of voters.
On Sunday, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus made the rounds of the morning talk shows to say he wasn’t worried that the fallout from the storm might diminish the party’s message.
“We’re 100 percent full steam ahead on Tuesday,” Priebus told Candy Crowley on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday.
This story was updated at 6:46 p.m.