GOP faces a storm outside and possible storm inside

  • Article by: JIM RUTENBERG AND , M ICHAEL D. SHEAR
  • Updated: August 27, 2012 - 10:51 PM
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Protesters demonstrate during the Republican National Convention on Monday, August 27, 2012 near downtown Tampa, Florida. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT) ORG XMIT: 1127961

Photo: Olivier Douliery, MCT - MCT

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TAMPA, FLA. - It was supposed to be the start of their four-day effort to sell Mitt Romney to the nation, but Monday instead proved to be a day of frustration for Republicans as the one-day delay in beginning their convention deprived them of their national stage and brought a fresh airing of intraparty tensions.

As Tropical Storm Isaac brushed past the convention site, it moved slowly on a more dangerous path toward New Orleans, growing stronger by the hour. Forecasters Monday afternoon predicted that the storm would land somewhere in southeastern Louisiana as a Category 2 hurricane, just as Republicans were set to kick their gathering into high gear at midweek.

Romney was heading to Tampa with his top aides eager to quickly hold the roll call vote Tuesday to make him the party's official presidential nominee lest the storm further disrupt the convention.

Party leaders gaveled the convention to order Monday to mark its formal opening and then quickly called a recess.

With the vacuum created by the postponement, "everybody who has a reason to be upset about something has time to talk about it," said Drew McKissick, a South Carolina delegate. McKissick was busy rallying support to fight Romney's legal team over new party rules that he said would hinder the kind of insurgent challenges that Romney has faced this year -- a clash that appeared to have been resolved enough to prevent it from spilling onto the convention floor Tuesday.

A day of closed-door talks between Romney aides and conservative activists ended with a compromise that one person involved said would "result in what we think is a very warm and fuzzy convention." Some activists announced that they had succeeded in preventing what they called a power grab by the party establishment.

But supporters of Rep. Ron Paul of Texas expressed frustration over what they said were efforts by Romney's aides and supporters to silence their voices in the convention hall. They were goaded along by Paul, who has declined a speaking slot, accusing the Romney campaign of trying to control his message.

And supporters of Rep. Todd Akin, the Missouri Senate candidate who lost much of the party's support after his comments on rape and abortion, revived Tea Party-infused arguments against the "establishment" wing of the party, saying that Romney and "party bosses" had abandoned him after his comments about "legitimate" rape.

All of it unfolded before a restless audience of about 4,500 delegates and 16,000 journalists left with little to do but stare at television screens covered with images of Isaac bearing down on the Gulf Coast.

Convention planners said they had no regrets about their decision to postpone Monday's activities. And, they said in interviews, that any ripples of discord Monday would be forgotten by Tuesday night, when Romney's wife, Ann, will speak, followed by the keynote speech by Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey.

"Nothing is going to happen that is anything more than noise," Newt Gingrich said. "We're going to leave here united and with enormous energy, enthusiasm and eagerness to defeat Barack Obama."

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