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Entries in Tropical Storm Isaac (9)

Monday
Aug272012

Ted Cruz: ‘Thankful’ Tropical Storm Isaac Keeping Biden Away from RNC

Douglas Graham/Roll Call(TAMPA, Fla.) -- Republican Texas Senate candidate Ted Cruz tried to make a joke at the expense of Tropical Storm Isaac, counting it among his “blessings” that the storm kept Vice President Joe Biden from campaigning in Tampa during the Republican National Convention.

“We have so many things to be thankful for.  So many blessings, including even we can be thankful for Hurricane Isaac.  If nothing else, it kept Joe Biden away,” Cruz said Sunday at a rally organized by the Faith and Freedom Coalition.

Biden planned on bracketing the convention with stops in Tampa Monday and Orlando and St. Augustine Tuesday, but postponed his trip so that resources would be focused on managing the impact of the storm.

“I understand that the Democrats are very sensitive about jokes about Joe Biden, and for good reason. As Ted expressed the very same day, it is critical that everyone be fully prepared for any hurricane, and our prayers are with everyone in the path of Tropical Storm Isaac,” John Drogin, campaign manager for Cruz, said in a statement.

Over the weekend, Isaac tore through the Caribbean, hitting Haiti and the Florida Keys and killing at least nineteen.

The Republican National Committee shortened its convention schedule when the storm threatened to come close to Tampa.  Its course has since turned toward New Orleans, and it is expected to strengthen to Category 1 hurricane status before it hits land late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug272012

Jindal Skips Another GOP Convention With a Storm in Mind

Andrew Burton/Getty Images(BATON ROUGE, La.) -- As Tropical Storm Isaac barrels toward the Gulf Coast, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said Monday that he’ll forgo attending the Republican National Convention in Tampa Fla., in order to focus on monitoring and making preparations for the storm.

“I will not be speaking or attending the Republican convention in Florida,” he told a news conference in Baton Rouge. “There is no time for politics here in Louisiana.”

Jindal had been slated to speak Wednesday night.

This is the second time Mother Nature has thwarted Jindal’s convention plans. The Louisiana governor was slated to speak at the GOP convention in St. Paul, Minn. in 2008, but cancelled because of Hurricane Gustav.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant canceled their trips to Tampa over the weekend, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott called off his convention appearances to monitor Isaac, which is expected to elevate to hurricane status in the coming days.

Tropical Storm Isaac’s projected path nearly mirrors the course taken by Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region seven years ago this week.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug272012

Tampa’s Mayor Tells Reporters ‘Everything Going Smoothly’

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(Tampa, Fla.) -- Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn told reporters Monday morning that things were running smoothly in his city – both from Tropical Storm Isaac and the first protests connected to the Republican National Convention.

During a morning briefing at the Tampa Convention Center, the mayor said the city was likely to get some bands of heavy winds and rain today, and said low-lying areas such as South Tampa that frequently flood in heavy rains would do so again, but that no storm surge of any significance was expected.

Buckhorn joked that the city has gotten more mentions in the media because of the tropical storm.

“I have become America’s weatherman, whether I chose to or not,” Buckhorn said.

“Traffic this morning was fine, no snarls to speak of,” Buckhorn said. “I think everyone paid attention to what we said, to make sure they give themselves ample time to get to work.”

Things might change tomorrow, he said, when 400 buses are put to use transporting Republican delegates streaming into downtown along with regular traffic.

Buckhorn said the city was ready for the first significant RNC protest, which was scheduled for Monday morning.

The mayor said his officers are out patrolling the streets looking for anarchic graffiti.

“There will be folks here that are interested in causing problems,” said Buckhorn, adding they are interested in destroying property and injuring law enforcement personnel, “and I’m not going to allow that to happen.”

Buckhorn said he did not know if the inclement weather would play a role in the size of Monday’s protests.

He also warned protesters and visitors alike that when the weather returns to normal, staying hydrated in the heat is vital.

“When it warms up and the sun comes out … there will be a lot of humidity. It will be oppressive. Folks who are out there on the street need to stay hydrated.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug272012

GOP's Big Squeeze: Convention Schedule Trimmed to Three Days

ABC News(TAMPA, Fla.) -- Republican officials are getting a lesson in how to squeeze a national convention into just three days.

In a conference call with reporters on Sunday, Romney campaign strategist Russ Schriefer said that Tropical Storm Isaac -- soon to be Hurricane Isaac -- had forced Republican National Convention planners to eliminate “some parts of the program that weren’t essential in order to retain our headliners.”

Schriefer said that none of the “headliners” -- those speakers who were scheduled for the prime 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. time slot -- had been removed from the program, but other speakers had.

“We did not change the 10 to 11 p.m. hour on any night,” Schriefer said.

According to the revised schedule released by convention officials, the roll call vote officially nominating Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan to the Republican ticket will take place on Tuesday.  That night, Ann Romney will speak.  Ryan’s speech takes place on Wednesday and Romney’s on Thursday.

The trimming of the schedule to accommodate the party’s three-day time frame included cutting out some parts of the program entirely and “making a few of the speeches shorter,” Schriefer said.

And the RNC built in an additional half-hour of time by pushing up the start of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights to 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.

“We’re obviously monitoring what is going on with the weather,” Schriefer said.

Tropical Storm Isaac will be making its way up the Florida coast Sunday night, bringing with it potentially damaging rain and wind.  It is expected to strengthen into a hurricane as early as Monday morning, and then make landfall somewhere along the Gulf Coast on Tuesday.

Schriefer left open the possibility that “if the weather changes,” further alterations to the schedule might be made, though none were planned at this time.  And he declined to speculate about potentially extending the convention programming through Friday.

“It’s a hypothetical question and I really don’t want to kind of answer it in that way,” he said.

Monday’s session will be brief.  Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus plans to gavel in the convention and then immediately call it into recess until Tuesday.

“If the session lasts more than five minutes I would be surprised,” Schriefer said, noting that although delegates are invited to attend he did not anticipate many would show up.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Aug262012

Tampa Braces for High Winds; Fla. Governor Preps Response

ABC News(TAMPA, Fla.) — With Tropical Storm Isaac whipping the Florida Keys Sunday with high winds and driving rain, Florida Gov. Rick Scott says that the state’s focus moving forward is ensuring the safety of the Sunshine State’s 19 million residents along with the crush of visitors traveling to Tampa for the Republican National Convention this week.

Scott, who declared a state of emergency for Florida on Saturday, said the latest forecasts have the storm “moving a bit west as it comes up the coast,” but he expected Isaac to eventually make landfall somewhere in the Florida panhandle. He said there was “a big concern” over the potential for flooding there, especially since Tropical Storm Debbie had already saturated the ground when that storm hit in late June.  He said his chief concern for the Tampa area is the looming impact of the wind.

Asked whether anyone is second-guessing scheduling the Republican National Convention in Florida during the middle of hurricane season, the governor predicted the GOP would still “have a great convention.”

“Everybody likes to come to Florida,” Scott said. “Our job and everybody up here has the same job: keep every resident and every visitor to our state safe, and we’re going to make sure that happens. We’re going to do everything we can to make sure they have a great time.

“The convention was a big opportunity for our state to show what a great state [and] place it is to live, work, and play,” he said. “What they’re going to find out this week is we know how to deal with hurricanes. We’re prepared. This is a state that knows how to deal with those things. On top of that, we’re the best hospitality state around. We have 87 million tourists here a year. We know how to have conventions, we know how to have large events, we’re going to do a great job.”

Scott said he spoke directly with Mitt Romney twice on Saturday to bring the presumptive Republican nominee “up to speed” and discuss the state’s emergency management efforts.

“[Romney's] biggest concern was what’s happening to the citizens of our state. He wanted to make sure that the 19 million citizens, everybody that is visiting our state is safe,” he said. “I went through the things — same sort of briefing we’re doing with the RNC — as far as you know the anticipated storm surge, the wind, the issues with regard to what the wind [and] what impact it would have on our bridges and what impact it would have on the use of buses.”

With regard to the convention, Scott said state and local officials are making sure delegates have information about how they should react to the storm and urged residents and visitors staying close to the beach to stay there and minimize travel.

“Don’t start venturing into the Tampa side because you don’t know what’s going to happen as far as your ability to get home,” he said.

With the storm’s trajectory now forecast to shift farther west, Scott said his primary concern for Tampa is the impact of the winds. He also pledged to dispatch his state’s resources wherever the storm strikes.

“Clearly we’re a state that has dealt with hurricanes. We know how to do this, and if it ends up going farther west — whether it’s Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana — Florida will be ready to be helpful,” he said. “Once we see where the track’s going to be up north, if we need to provide resources to another state, then we’ll have the resources to do that.”

Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor echoed the governor’s emphasis on public safety, but suggested the strength of the storm likely will be tolerable, even for the thousands of demonstrators in Tampa this week during the convention.

“As far as the police officers are concerned, we’re going to be out on the street,” she said. “Right now the track is moving farther and farther west, so as it is right now there’ll be high winds, and there’ll be rains, but it’s not going to be something that’s going to prohibit anyone from doing what they want to do out on the street.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Aug262012

Isaac Interrupts Lavish Political Party

iStockphoto/Thinkstock)(TAMPA, Fla.) -- A tropical storm named Isaac may accomplish what watchdog groups, newspaper editorials and ethics laws have not: it put a dent in the over-the-top entertaining and partying by lobbyists and special interests trying to buy access and influence with key members of congress at the political conventions.

The potential for fierce wind and rain threatened to shut down a number of lavish outdoor events, including a golf tournament whose influential guests were scheduled to include House Speaker John Boehner, a nighttime performance of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and a series of Senate fundraisers on a yacht called the Starship II.

Top party insiders had been scheduled to converge on Tampa for the Republican National Convention Sunday, and SuperPACs and advocacy groups were provided the keys to many of the week's most exclusive gatherings – allowing the wealthiest donors special access to the party's top political leaders.

But the impending storm appeared to blunt some plans. Turnout at the early receptions Saturday was light, and the delayed start of the convention meant many dignitaries would postpone their arrival.

Still, with the convention set to resume Tuesday, the selling of access – a transaction often carefully shrouded in Washington, DC – looked to still be ready for a full display in Tampa. A group of moderate conservatives called the American Action Network advertised the chance to mingle with members of Congress and senior staff at an arena skybox overlooking the convention floor for $30,000. Full access to the group's intimate luncheons and hot ticket concerts were open to their biggest supporters – those who gave $250,000.

"It's absolutely stunning," said Charles Lewis, founder of the Center for Public Integrity. "I've never seen anything like this, honestly, and I have been watching politics like many of us for decades. Since Watergate I have never seen anything at this level of shameless."

According to Politico, which first reported on the American Action Network's convention plans, the center-right group is planning to spend $10 million to influence House races this year. Dan Conston, a spokesman for American Action Network, called the notion that his group is merely selling access "absurd."

"The sort of events we're organizing are policy panels on retirement security, to hear from the top officials in the country," Conston said. "We're discussing real policy issues – A panel on jobs. A healthcare forum. We'll have some great speeches. And with our concerts, there's also a fun element to the convention."

Several of the party's wealthiest patrons will receive VIP treatment as the endless succession of receptions and cocktail parties keep them entertained.

One conservative group with ties to Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is naming a pavilion on the sidelines of the convention after Dr. Miriam Adelson, wife of the party's single biggest donor this year, Sands Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson – he's given $41 million, and counting. The pavilion will host women-themed discussions.

Another group, GOProud, which promotes inclusiveness for gay conservatives, will host an event called Homocon 2012 that will honor, among others, hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer, another of the largest GOP donors this cycle.

Many of the groups spending the most money are nonprofits that allow their donors to give money without their names being publicly disclosed. They are permitted to spend money to push for political candidates, as long as the majority of the money they raise also goes towards other purposes, such as advocacy of a particular issue.

Ellen Miller of the Sunlight Foundation told ABC News she believes this type of secrecy warps the political process in favor of the wealthy, and helps foster public cynicism about congress and Washington politics.

"Basically anyone can give anything to anyone and, and be completely anonymous, anonymous about it if they so choose," she said. "So whether it's Convention financing or Super-PAC financing or issue group financing or even just direct campaign contributions, the public is becoming less and less tolerant. They are tired of seeing politics swing the way of Wall Street, not of Main Street."

The sway of big money will be just as evident in Charlotte next week when Democrats gather for the Democratic National Convention. As ABC News reported earlier this month, organizers sent around a menu to top fundraisers and donors, offering "premier credentials" that access luxury suites and the convention floor to those who donate the most. Someone who could raise $1 million topped the convention host committee's list, while top flight packages were also spelled out for those who donated $100,000 directly, or raised more than $650,000 (Trustee Package), $500,000 (Piedmont Package), $250,000 (Dogwood Package) and on down.

Unlike Republicans, the organizers in Charlotte have said they are attempting to increase the access and the number of events tailored to the party's rank and file members.

"We've gone further than any convention in history to find ways to provide greater access for the public," said Democratic National Convention Committee spokeswoman Joanne Peters.

Miller, of the Sunlight Foundation, said the conventions used to have a fundamental role in the selection of each party's presidential candidate, but that has largely faded. "Now they're really nothing more than … opportunities to be wined and dined by big corporate America," she said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Aug262012

GOP Postpones Start of Republican National Convention Due to Hurricane Isaac Threat

NOAA via Getty Images(TAMPA, Fla.) — Republicans have cut short their national convention by one day due to the looming threat of a severe storm that is about to pound the state of Florida, party officials announced Saturday.

Less than 48 hours before the Republican National Convention was set to begin, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said that the possibility of “severe transportation difficulties due to sustained wind and rain” brought by Tropical Storm Isaac, which meteorologists predict will become a hurricane by Monday, forced convention planners to scrap Monday’s scheduled activities.

“Due to the severe weather reports for the Tampa Bay area, the Republican National Convention will convene on Monday August 27th and immediately recess until Tuesday afternoon, August 28th, exact time to follow,” Priebus said in a statement announcing the postponement. “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.”

Instead, party officials said Monday’s speaking lineup would be squeezed into the remaining three days of the convention and that they would be releasing more details about the revised schedule as early as Sunday.

Monday’s RNC program was to include the roll call vote of delegates officially nominating Mitt Romney as the party’s presidential nominee. The nomination is now likely to take place on Tuesday, according to Romney strategist Russ Schriefer, who briefed reporters on a conference call today.

“We expect the roll call will just take place on Tuesday,” Schriefer said. “It will take place right around the same time that it was going to take place on Monday, really with very little change.”

On the same call, Priebus emphasized that the convention would go on.

“This is a Monday issue,” he said, noting that he knew of no state delegations that had cancelled plans to travel to Tampa for the week.

“The safety of those in Isaac’s path is of the utmost importance,” Romney tweeted after the announcement was made on this evening. “I applaud those in Tampa making appropriate schedule changes.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, said that he had briefed Romney “on the storm and possible impact to the state” earlier in the day.

“I have made Governor Romney and RNC officials aware of the resources our state can provide in the chance Tampa is affected,” Scott said in a statement. The governor also announced that he was cancelling all of his scheduled convention-related activities on Sunday and Monday. He was originally scheduled to speak on Monday night.

As convention officials were changing course today, Tropical Storm Isaac was heading north toward Miami. It is expected to strengthen to a hurricane and make landfall in the Florida Keys on Sunday evening, and then move westward into the Gulf of Mexico, making landfall near Panama City Beach on Tuesday. The storm is currently forecast to pass about 200 miles west of Tampa on Monday night and early Tuesday, but the storm’s wind field is large, meaning that Tampa is still expected to feel its affects, with wind gusts of up to 50 mph expected in the area.

Hillsborough County— the county where Tampa is located—has declared a state of emergency, as has the state of Florida. The Tampa Bay Times Forum, the site of the convention, is located on the water — a vulnerable position in a storm of Isaac’s magnitude.

The first day of the convention was originally designed as an opportunity to showcase what Schriefer called the “failures of the Obama administration over the past four years.” The night was to include testimonials from “real people affected by the Obama economy.” The goal of that first night, Schriefer said, was to “lay down the predicate and make the case of why President Obama has failed.”

In addition to the roll call votes nominating Romney for president and Paul Ryan for vice president, Monday’s speaking schedule was set to include a handful of party luminaries with official roles in the convention process: RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, House Speaker John Boehner, former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, among others.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug242012

Storm Veers West, But RNC Not 'Out of the Woods'

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Republican delegates can breathe a slight sigh of relief today as Tropical Storm Isaac, which was originally projected to slam into the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla. Tuesday, veers to the west and might now make landfall more than 200 miles away from the convention zone.

The convention's 50,000 expected delegates, journalists, protesters and guests will still need to prepare for heavy rain and winds of up to 50 mph, but will likely be spared the hurricane-force wind, rain and flooding that was originally predicted.

"Not by any stretch of the imagination are they out of the woods with this thing," National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said.

From Sunday afternoon through Tuesday, Tampa will likely see heavy rain that could flood streets, gusts of tropical-force winds that could close bridges and a possible storm surge that could flood low-lying areas such as beachfront hotels and the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the hub of the convention.

Bryan Koon, the state's emergency management director, said if winds exceed 40 mph, some of the bridges spanning Tampa Bay will likely have to be closed. That would cut 27 state delegations that are booked at hotels across the bay off from the convention center, forcing hundreds of delegates to drive around the bay to make it to the convention. That's if the roads don't flood, Koon said.

"It's not going to be one single thing that we are looking at," Koon said. "We've had a lot of rainfall in the Tampa Bay area in the past few months, so flooding is a potential. If it comes down in large amounts of rain in a short time period, it would make some roads impassable."

Koon said emergency managers also have their eye on a possible storm surge, which could swamp many of the beachfront hotels that pepper the bay area. Twenty-two state delegations are staying in beachfront hotels.

But while the situation on the ground in Tampa will likely be wet and windy, the circumstances in the skies could be far rosier. Koons said he is "not overly concerned" about airports closing or delegates' flights being grounded because of the storm.

He said that if the storm affects the airport, it would "probably be short lived and would just delay flights" not cancel them.

Isaac's track and intensity could change greatly after it passes over Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Cuba this weekend, where the storm will likely be weakened by high mountains. Isaac is expected to pick up strength Sunday and Monday over the warm Gulf of Mexico waters and the eye of the storm is predicted to pass west of Tampa far out in the Gulf.

Mitt Romney, who is expected to be voted in as the official Republican presidential nominee Monday, said he is not expecting to have any trouble braving the storm to accept the nomination.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug242012

Optimistic Romney Says ‘Winds of Change’ Barreling Toward RNC

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(HOPKINS, Minn.) – Mitt Romney isn’t going to let a little rain ruin his parade — into the Republican National Convention, that is.

With Tropical Storm Isaac bearing down on the Caribbean and barreling toward Florida, Romney has remained optimistic when peppered with questions about the impending storm, adding that Floridians are simply feeling the “winds of change.”

Romney spoke to GOP Florida Gov. Rick Scott by phone Thursday and discussed the weather forecast, according to an aide. In an interview with Fox Business, Romney said he felt “pretty good” about his odds of getting to Tampa.

“Any plans for Tampa depend on the airports being open, able to receive all the delegates and people like myself,” he said. “We need to get there. But I feel pretty good that we’ll be in Tampa and we’ll have a great convention.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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