TAMPA, Fla. -- By the time Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan steps up to the microphone in front of the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night, Tropical Storm Isaac could be a Category 2 hurricane bearing down on New Orleans.
Tampa, the convention's host city, escaped the worst of the storm Monday, but Isaac still forced the cancellation of the opening day festivities and remained as much a part of the conversation on the convention floor as delegates fretted over whether the message from Ryan and presidential pick Mitt Romney would be lost amid the television networks' split-screen storm coverage.
"We are all concerned," Massachusetts delegate Bill Nickerson told The Washington Examiner.
Nickerson said Republicans are counting on the convention to give their ticket a much-needed opportunity to shine and make their case to a national audience that wants to know more about them.
But by Monday, news stations, websites and newspapers had already begun shifting their attention away from the convention to Isaac.
"The storm has taken a front seat to the convention," Nickerson lamented. "Hopefully it won't be as bad as it potentially could be."
Federal Emergency Management Agency officials on Monday warned that Isaac could turn deadly even if it never reaches hurricane strength, because it has grown so large that it will hit a wide swath of the Gulf Coast when it finally makes landfall.
"A large system that's moving relatively slowly can produce tremendous amounts of rainfall and cause flooding over a large area near the coast and well inland," National Hurricane Center Director Rick Knabb said Monday.
President Obama declared a state of emergency in Louisiana as residents along the coast and particularly in New Orleans feared a repeat of the devastation wrought by Katrina seven years ago this week.
Here in Tampa, meanwhile, organizers who already canceled the opening day festivities said they have no plans to revise the schedule.
"We are monitoring the situation with the weather," an RNC organizer told reporters late Monday.
On tap for Tuesday is the keynote address by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, as well Ann Romney, whose speech was delayed from Monday. Delegates will also formally nominate Romney and Ryan.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who canceled the opening day of the session Monday in anticipation of a storm that turned out to be much less threatening than expected, still gaveled the convention into session Monday, for just a few minutes before recessing it again. Outside, it was drizzling, and a light wind was blowing.
Delegates milled around the floor with little to do, but no one was faulting Priebus for canceling Monday's session.
"It's bad timing, but it's Mother Nature," Alabama delegate Cam Ward told The Examiner. "You just have to work around it."