TAMPA, Fla. -- Republican officials abruptly announced plans Saturday night to scrap the first day of their national convention, bowing to the threat of Tropical Storm Isaac as it bore down menacingly on Florida.
"The safety of those in Isaac's path is of the utmost importance," tweeted Mitt Romney, his formal nomination as presidential candidate pushed back by a minimum of 24 hours from Monday night to Tuesday.
The announcement was made as delegates and other convention-goers flocked to the Tampa Bay area by the planeload for what had been scripted as four days of political pageantry and speechmaking with a purpose – to propel Romney into the fall campaign against President Barack Obama.
Officials said they hoped to begin laying out a revised schedule on Sunday.
Romney campaigned in battleground Ohio during the day, pledging to help female entrepreneurs and innovators who are eager to create small businesses and the jobs that go with them. It was an economy-themed countdown to a convention taking shape in a city already bristling with security – and bracing for a possible hurricane.
"Women in this country are more likely to start businesses than men. Women need our help," said the Republican presidential challenger, eager to relegate recent controversy over abortion to the sidelines and make the nation's slow economic recovery the dominant issue of his convention week.
Reince Priebus, the Republican Party chairman, told reporters on an early evening conference call that no state delegations had changed their travel plans because of the storm. "Everyone is planning on being here and we hope we are up and running and expect all of our delegates to be here," he said.
Yet with rain and high winds in the forecast, and with the threat of a storm surge and possible flooding, convention organizers said they were making contingency plans to move delegates who have been booked into beachfront hotels to other locations if necessary.
North Dakota Republican Party Chairman Stan Stein said he needed instructions on preparing emergency kits for the 65 to 70 people in his state's contingent staying at a hotel 200 yards off the water in Treasure Island. "We do blizzards. We can handle them, but we're just going to go on the advice we're getting from hotel management on how to prepare for this," he said.
"Our first priority is ensuring the safety of delegates, alternates, guests, members of the media attending the Republican National Convention, and citizens of the Tampa Bay area," convention CEO Bill Harris said in an emailed announcement that followed private conversations involving Romney's campaign, Florida Gov. Rick Scott's office, security officials and others.
The announcement said that while the convention would officially be gaveled into session on Monday as scheduled, the day's events would be cancelled until Tuesday.
The announcement made the GOP convention the party's second in a row to be disrupted by weather. Four years ago, the delegates gathered in St. Paul, Minn., but Hurricane Gustav, slamming the Gulf Coast, led to a one-day postponement.
In that case, party officials rewrote their script to make President George W. Bush's speech into a video appearance, and to cancel plans for Vice President Dick Cheney to appear before the delegates. Both men were unpopular at the time.
Four years later, there was no immediate sign that Romney's forces would do anything other than squeeze two nights' of platform programming into one. Nor did it appear the postponement would cost them much in political terms, since the television networks had already announced they would not be carrying any of Monday's events live.
Despite the disruption, Priebus said, "we are optimistic that we will begin an exciting, robust convention that will nominate the Romney-Ryan ticket."
Plans had called for the convention to open Monday with quick ratification of a conservative platform expected, followed by Romney's nomination in a traditional roll call of the states timed for network evening news coverage.
Barring further postponements it will end Thursday with his prime-time acceptance speech, which aides hope will propel him into a successful fall campaign and, eventually, the White House.
The polls made the race a close one, narrow advantage to Obama, as two weeks of back-to-back conventions approached. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on television ads, with hundreds of million more to come, almost all of it airing in a small group of battleground states expected to settle the election.
The list included Florida as well as North Carolina, where the Democratic National Convention will be held in one week's time.
Scott declared a state of emergency earlier in the day as the storm approached the Florida Keys, more than 400 miles from Tampa. Forecasters said it was on a track to head west of the convention city, but predicted strong winds and rain at a minimum on Monday as the delegates were to board buses for their first trip to the hall.
"We are a hospitality state. We know how to take care of people and we want to ensure their safety," Scott said.
Apart from weather concerns, a heavy security presence was already in evidence. Miles of fencing were designed to create a secure zone around a tract of land that included the convention hall, the hotel where Romney will stay and a nearby convention center where journalists and others worked.
Obama did his best to intrude on the Republican unity tableau.
In an interview with The Associated Press, he accused Romney of holding "extreme positions" on economic and social issues, while pledging a willingness on his own part to agree to "a whole range of compromise" with Republicans if he is re-elected.
He did not elaborate, but his pledge seemed designed to appeal to independents and other voters who say they are tired of seemingly perpetual campaign bickering and Washington gridlock.
Plans for Vice President Joe Biden to campaign in Florida were cancelled, also because of the threat posed by the storm.
But Romney said Obama's entire campaign rested on his ability to persuade people to ignore his record and listen instead to his rhetoric.
"It is not his words people have to listen to. It's his action and his record," he said in his appearance in Powell, Ohio. "And if they look at that, they'll take him out of the office and put people into the office who'll actually get America going again."
Romney's speech included an appeal to women made on economic grounds rather than on the basis of social issues like abortion, the sort of approach the Republican hopes will eat into Obama's polling advantage among female voters.
"I want to make sure that we help entrepreneurs and innovators. I want to speak to the women of America who have dreams, who begin businesses in their homes, who begin businesses out in the marketplace, who are working at various enterprises and companies," he said.
Romney envisioned an economic resurgence fueled by abundant energy, expanded trade and a skilled workforce. If that happens, "America is going to surprise the world. We're going to stand out as a shining city on a hill in part because of our extraordinary economy," he said to the cheers of an estimated 5,000 supporters.
Romney's determination to turn the attention to the economy follows two weeks of controversy over Medicare, courtesy of Obama's campaign, as well as abortion, the result of a comment by Rep. Todd Akin, the party's candidate in a Senate race in Missouri.
Romney joined an unsuccessful effort by party leaders to force Akin to quit his race after he said women who are raped rarely become pregnant, a view unsupported by medical evidence.
He also fought back hard in recent days in person and television advertising against Obama's allegations that he and running mate Ryan would remake Medicare in a way that would undermine the health of future seniors.
AP White House Correspondent Ben Feller and Associated Press writers Steve Peoples and Philip Elliott in Ohio, and Brian Bakst and Suzette Laboy in Florida contributed to this report
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"Throughout his life, Mitt Romney has made great decisions, and choosing Paul Ryan as his running mate is a truly inspired choice. I got to know Paul during my Senate campaign when he endorsed me early on when I was still considered a long shot. Paul Ryan is a courageous reformer who understands our nation's challenges, has proposed bold policy solutions to solve them, and has shown the courage to stand up to President Obama and other Washington politicians trying to tear him down. "The Romney-Ryan ticket is going to win in November because it offers the American people visionary leadership to recapture the free enterprise spirit that has empowered countless Americans to build businesses from scratch and live the American dream. I'm excited about the visionary change a Romney-Ryan team will bring to Washington, and I look forward to campaigning
<blockquote> "Mitt Romney has made a great choice in Paul Ryan. He is an accomplished public servant and a leading voice on the most pressing issues facing our country. Paul is one of my best friends in Congress and someone I have worked closely with as a former colleague on the House Ways & Means Committee. "Jane and I wish Paul and Janna and their kids the very best. As the Chairman of the Romney campaign in Ohio, I look forward to working with Paul to ensure that the Romney-Ryan ticket carries Ohio and is victorious in November. Most importantly, as a member of the Senate, I look forward to working closely with a Romney-Ryan Administration to restore fiscal sanity and enact pro-growth policies to create jobs."</blockquote>
Obama for American Campaign Manager Jim Messina
<blockquote>"In naming Congressman Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney has chosen a leader of the House Republicans who shares his commitment to the flawed theory that new budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthy, while placing greater burdens on the middle class and seniors, will somehow deliver a stronger economy. The architect of the radical Republican House budget, Ryan, like Romney, proposed an additional $250,000 tax cut for millionaires, and deep cuts in education from Head Start to college aid. His plan also would end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher system, shifting thousands of dollars in health care costs to seniors. As a member of Congress, Ryan rubber-stamped the reckless Bush economic policies that exploded our deficit and crashed our economy. Now the Romney-Ryan ticket would take us back by repeating the same, catastrophic mistakes."</blockquote>
Rachel Maddow MSNBC
Charles M. Blow
Progressive Change Campaign Committee
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee issued the following statement: <blockquote>"Paul Ryan is a right-wing extremist who wants to end Medicare. This is a major unforced error by Mitt Romney. It gives President Obama and Democrats a chance to draw a clear contrast in 2012 by promising not to cut one penny from Medicare or Social Security benefits. If Democrats win in a landslide, this was the game changer." -- Adam Green, co-founder, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a 1 million member grassroots organization</blockquote>
Susan B. Anthony List
The national pro-life organization released the following statement: <blockquote>"By selecting Congressman Ryan as his vice presidential running mate, Governor Romney demonstrates his commitment to protecting American women and unborn children," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of SBA List. "A longtime pro-life advocate and a strong fiscal conservative, Congressman Ryan has insisted that there can be no 'truce' when it comes to advancing the rights of the unborn and achieving fiscal responsibility. He has a pristine pro-life voting record and will be an asset to Governor Romney's campaign. "Pro-life voters are a key demographic and help secure victory in critical elections," continued Dannenfelser. "The addition of a second strong pro-life leader to the ticket energizes the pro-life base - we are thrilled with this pick."</blockquote>
<blockquote>"The selection of Paul Ryan is a bold and inspired pick," said Jimmy LaSalvia, Executive Director of GOProud. "Paul Ryan has been the architect of policies that would benefit all Americans, especially gay Americans." "Paul Ryan is one of the few political leaders anywhere in the country willing to tell the American people the truth about the unprecedented budget crisis we are facing, and - more importantly - willing to put forward bold plans to put this country back on the road to fiscal solvency," continued LaSalvia.</blockquote>
Log Cabin Republicans
<blockquote>"Congressman Paul Ryan is a strong choice for vice president, and his addition to the GOP ticket will help Republican candidates up and down the ballot," said R. Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director. "As chairman of the House Budget Committee and author of the Republican "path to prosperity" that provided the blueprint for serious spending cuts in this Congress, nobody is more qualified to articulate a conservative economic vision to restore the American economy and stimulate job creation. </blockquote>
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas)
Center For American Progress President Neera Tanden
<blockquote>"Just like Sen. John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin and George H.W. Bush's selection of Dan Quayle, Mitt Romney has been cowed by the right wing into choosing an extreme vice presidential nominee who will alienate moderate voters. It's now clearer than ever that as president, Mitt Romney would end Medicare as we know it, and will raise taxes on middle class families by more than $2,000in order to slash taxes on the wealthiest Americans. While there is a lot that can be said about Paul Ryan's extreme views, more important is what this choice says about Mitt Romney: that he is unwilling or unable to stand up to the far-right of his party and select a vice-presidential candidate that is both able to be president on day one and capable of governing by reaching across the aisle."</blockquote>
SEIU President Mary Kay Henry
<blockquote>"If there were ever any doubt that Mitt Romney is not on the side of working people, today's choice of Rep. Paul Ryan as a running mate makes it crystal clear. With this choice, Romney has shown the American people that he believes Rep. Ryan's extremist, irresponsible and anti-worker agenda is what's right for our country. "Rep. Ryan has made a name for himself by fighting in the halls of Congress for tax giveaways for the wealthy and big corporations while proposing to gut vital services like Medicare and education, and eliminating any sense of retirement security for working families. His no-holds barred record of attacking seniors, children, and working men and women is frightening for the 99 percent of Americans who are not rich -- but for Mitt Romney it was a calling card to choose him as a running mate."
NARAL Pro-Choice America President Nancy Keenan
<blockquote>"Mitt Romney's choice of Rep. Ryan as his running mate reminds us of why elections matter when it comes to our ability to make personal and private medical decisions," Keenan continued. "The outcome of the 2012 presidential election very well could determine whether abortion remains legal and accessible for the next generation of American women. Romney has pledged that taking away women's rights will be a priority for him and his choice of Ryan amplifies that promise to the extreme anti-choice backers of this ticket. My organization's priority is to make sure President Obama remains in the White House."</blockquote>
Rep. Kathy Hochul
<blockquote>"Americans deserve new ideas for how we can reduce the debt and protect our seniors and the middle class. Just one year ago, Western New York voters rejected the Ryan-Collins policies that would end Medicare as we know it and hurt middle class families while giving more tax cuts to the rich. Our country needs to move forward, not re-hash failed ideas. Given Chris Collins' ongoing support for tax cuts for the rich that add nearly $1 trillion to the deficit and his willingness to send his business to China to line his pockets, it is clear my opponent is going to continue to pursue policies and priorities that have already been rejected."</blockquote>
Sen. Lisa Murkowski
Chris Van Hollen
Rep. Mary Bono Mack
Rep. Trent Franks
<blockquote>"Now that Paul Ryan's personal ambition has clearly trumped his interest in the First District, I have no doubt he'll find himself out of a job come November. Once Wisconsinites and voters across our country learn the truth about Ryan's radical plot to end Medicare as we know it, de-fund women's health care, and preserve tax breaks for millionaires, they'll vote against him not just once, but twice. In the coming weeks, our campaign will work with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to continue getting the word out on Ryan's indefensible record, and building momentum to ensure victory on Election Day."</blockquote>
<blockquote>"Governor Mitt Romney made a bold and reform-minded selection in Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. This election has to be about who is going to look out for the next generation. America needs a comeback team to turn around the economy and to turn around the fiscal status of our country. Romney and Ryan have the ideas and the experience needed to take on these core issues. This is a great day for Wisconsin and an even greater day for America."</blockquote>