What a difference four years makes.
Back in 2008, Hurricane Gustav was crashing into gulf states at the start of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., prompting party bigwigs to call off some events at Sen. John McCain's big bash. Meanwhile, Barack Obama's star-studded convention in Denver went off as one of the biggest and best political gatherings ever.
Now it seems that the roles have been reversed. GOP and local officials are surprised at how easy the convention has been set up and businesses are giddy with the prospect of cashing in during the late summer months when the hot Gulf beaches are usually empty.
"It's going to be a tremendous financial benefit to us. We hope to make one-third of what we would make in a year," Cuban Club Treasure Patrick Mantega told the Fox station in Tampa. "August is typically a slower month. I think this will be great for the economy here," Lakeland, Florida Hilton Garden Inn manager Brian Berry told the Bay News.
By comparison, business stories about the Democratic Convention in Charlotte, N.C., have been less favorable, though the party said it is ironing out the kinks. Some stories have suggested that merchants aren't seeing the cash roll in.
The comparisons don't end there. Take the schedule. The GOP has added welcome events to Sunday, August 26, essentially making it a five-day convention. The Democrats have scaled their convention the following week back to three days and cancelled what was expected to be a blockbuster Labor Day rally at the local NASCAR speedway. And some are making fun of their decision to rename Bank of America Stadium where the president will accept his second nomination, to "Panther" stadium, a bow to concerns about his efforts via TARP to bolster Wall Street.
But it's the economic cha-ching that has folks in Tampa buzzing.
"This has been bigger than the Super Bowl because it's twice as long," Mike Phillips, general manager of the Courtyard by Marriott at Lakeside Village, told the News Chief. Hertz and other car companies are also expected to be at full capacity.
Republican officials said that smooth flow to the August 27 opening has also created an enthusiasm in Tampa that they hope will be a good fall campaign send-off for Mitt Romney, a contrast to the suggestions of some key Democratic leaders like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi that elected officials stay home, avoid ties to the president and campaign for their own future.