TAMPA, Fla. — The Republican National Convention was duly convened and immediately adjourned Monday afternoon, amid waning fears of major weather problems. Party Chair Reince Priebus banged his gavel three times to open the event and just as quickly repeated the process, calling a 24-hour recess to deal with the consequences of Tropical Storm Isaac.
Isaac was usurping headlines all day, but otherwise had scant impact on Tampa. A fitful sun peaked out most of the day, and a light rain made walking between buildings uncomfortable at times. But aside from a brief flurry of excitement when a tornado watch was called in the early afternoon, all was quiet on the RNC front.
Too quiet, in most journalists’ opinion.
“What am I supposed to write about for the next two days?” grumbled one British journalist. “There’s nothing happening.”
That might have been unfair. Convention officials scrambled to keep delegates and media happy with briefings and other events.
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In an apparent effort to court the heretofore-standoffish Latino vote, convention officials are scheduling a daily Hispanic briefing. Monday morning’s offerings were Texas Rep. Francesco Canseco and former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu. Both men spoke in Spanish; Sununu’s mother was from El Salvador, and he speaks what he terms “kitchen” Spanish, a bit creaky but quite serviceable.
Sununu, a Romney surrogate, acknowledged that Hispanics had supported President Barack Obama in large numbers in 2008, but he professed himself upbeat about the Republican’s chances in November.
“The Hispanic community has been very aggressive in entrepreneurship,” said Sununu. “Romney’s message of opportunity is truly attractive to those who came here by choice. They are also hugely disappointed in Obama. This combination of two realities will result in a surprising increase in the number of Hispanics who vote for Mitt Romney when they go to the polls on November 6.”
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The RNC schedule had to be compacted down to three days from the original four, but officials were releasing few details of the new program. Russ Schriefer, a strategist for the Romney campaign, confirmed that Donald Trump was not expected to speak, but denied that the business magnate and colorful television personality had been bumped. Trump’s removal from the schedule was due to timing difficulties caused by Monday’s cancelations, Schriefer insisted. And the ever-unpredictable Trump could still surprise the convention, he hinted.
“Just because he’s [not on the schedule] doesn’t mean he won’t show up,” said the strategist.
There were protesters out and about on Monday, despite the weather warnings, but they were kept away from the convention sites. A few Ron Paul diehards were hanging around, calling on passersby to demand that the Texas congressman be allowed to speak at the convention.
“He had a plurality of delegates in seven states,” said Bryn Dennehy, a Paul supporter from Eugene, Ore. “That gives him the right to deliver a speech. We want him nominated from the floor.”
The 77-year-old Paul mounted a spirited campaign for president, but won few delegates during the primaries. He did, however, manage to accrue dozens at state conventions over the summer. Fearful Republican officials stripped him of delegates that he was entitled to, say his supporters, and they are irate about it.
Christoph Stampfli came all the way from Zurich, Switzerland, to ensure that Paul be given his chance at the convention.
“Ron Paul is the perfect candidate for America,” said Stampfli. “He wants to balance the budget and end US foreign involvement. He also wants to give sound money to the United States and to the world.”
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Dennehy chimed in. The University of Oregon student is a fan of Paul’s campaign to audit the Federal Reserve and take away the government’s ability to just print money to cover its debts.
“Ron Paul was one of the few congressmen to vote against the war in Iraq,” said Dennehy. “And he wants to get rid of this paper fiat monopoly money we are using.”
Back at the convention center, where journalists were assembled, the main attraction arrived in mid-afternoon. This was actor Jon Voight, full of bluster about the election and the media. He started off by comparing the US president to the socialist leader of Venezuela.
“This administration has taken control of the media more than Hugo Chavez,” he sputtered. “You all had better wake up. You should be appalled at the destructive bias against the Republican Party in the press.”
Apparently Voight is not watching Fox News.
The actor also recommended that everyone go see “2016: Obama’s America,” the fiercely anti-Obama film that is breaking box office records for “documentaries.” The movie goes over a lot of old ground, charging that the president is carrying out some anti-American campaign inherited from his Kenyan father.
As journalists too young to remember “Midnight Cowboy” saw the small crowd around the tall and still handsome actor, a murmur spread through the hall:
“Look, it’s Angelina Jolie’s father!”
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