Republican convention competes with storm for national attention
Published Monday, August 27, 2012 9:01AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, August 27, 2012 11:39PM EDT
As Republicans gear up for day two their national convention, they continue to compete for attention with a hurricane threat that’s looming over the Gulf Coast.
The convention officially opened on Monday and immediately recessed until Tuesday as delegates waited out Tropical Storm Isaac, leaving presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney with one less day to establish himself as a viable alternative to U.S. President Barack Obama.
“It’s been a bit of a stink pit summer for Mitt Romney,” CTV political commentator Scott Reid told CTV News Channel on Monday. “He’s one or two points behind in most swing states and the convention is his opportunity to say this is the issue, this is the problem and I’m the solution.”
As Republicans gear up for a number of high-profile speeches, including one from Ann Romney, on Tuesday, the worry of further delays hangs over convention organizers.
“Goodness forbid, what if that hurricane should hit into New Orleans,” said Reid, adding that the memory of Hurricane Katrina is still fresh in the minds of many Americans. “People and property are at risk, so it’s a big concern for convention organizers.”
The convention was being hurriedly reshaped Monday as Isaac threatened to develop into a hurricane not far from New Orleans, where almost seven years to the day Katrina devastated the city, killed 1,800 people and led to criticism of President George W. Bush's response.
However, Romney suggested on Monday that there are no plans to cancel the convention. He said he hopes those in the storm's path are "spared any major destruction."
Reid said the convention is vital to Romney’s attempt to rebrand his image and relate to “middle America.”
“He’s not an average Joe,” said Reid. “Romney needs to say the problem is the economy. It’s about jobs and growth and where Obama can’t take this economy…‘put me in this job and I’ll do it.’”
The storm is just one in a series of set backs for the Republican Party.
Former Republican Florida governor Charlie Crist said Monday that he will be speaking at the Democratic National Convention to be held in Charlotte, North Carolina next week.
The announcement comes a day after Crist said he is endorsing Barack Obama for a second term in the White House.
Republicans are hoping another storm of controversy will soon blow over as the party tries to quiet the outrage sparked by Republican Missouri Senate hopeful Rep. Todd Akin's comments suggesting women's bodies have a way of preventing pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape."
Romney conceded on Sunday that fallout from the remark "hurts our party and I think is damaging to women."
CNBC correspondent John Harwood told CTV’s Canada AM on Monday that carefully navigating the pitfalls of politicking in the midst of a disaster, or even the threat of one, is vital.
"If you look at the polls, Romney is right there with Barack Obama," he said Monday.
Although the Republican hopeful is slightly behind on a national basis and in some battleground states, "he's got an excellent opportunity of unseating this incumbent president."
Obama and Romney have already spent an estimated US$500 million on advertising, most of it in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire, Ohio, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada. These eight states are home to 100 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the keys to the White House.
"Mitt Romney has got to win most of those states, in fact nearly all of the battleground states, but he has a chance to do that."
Republicans have also set their sights on winning in the traditionally Democrat states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin too, where Romney's running mate Paul Ryan calls home.
"If they can win that state, that suggests Mitt Romney's got a legitimate chance to win it," Harwood said.
The latest Associated Press-GfK poll puts the contest at 47 per cent for Obama to 46 per cent for Romney among registered voters.
The election to choose the next president of the United States is Nov. 6.