Election battle-weary Republicans descended on Tampa, Florida, over the weekend, bringing with them a tsunami of emotions from a primary race that left many exhausted and few satisfied with the final choice.
To make matters worse, Tropical Storm Isaac is bearing down on Florida’s Gulf Coast and convention organizers scrapped much of the opening hoopla and pushed the schedule to later in the week, compressing four days into three and hoping the weather doesn’t upstage the big show.
For some, the threat of bad weather is an omen for a party battered by controversy, hobbled with a candidate who is — at best — a compromise and riddled with division, derision and defiance.
“Maybe it’s fitting that we hit town during a hurricane,” Missouri delegate Sharon Atkinson told Capitol Hill Blue in an email.
While political parties try to use conventions to showcase unity, the GOP confab in Tampa is anything but unified and the mood is nowhere near agreement or joy.
Texas Congressman Ron Paul‘s rabid supporters want revenge for a system that they say was rigged to deny their candidate a nomination they feel he deserves. The Tea Party, assuaged somewhere by Mitt Romney‘s selection of Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate, still feel out of the loop and will use Sarah Palin‘s offsite gathering to voice their frustrations.
And some of the Paul faithful want payback of some kind against Rand Paul, the son who they feel abandoned his father and bought a speaking role at the convention with a traitorous endorsement of Romney.
“Rand is gonna get his,” says Andy Walters, a convention attendee from Texas who sported a Ron Paul t-shirt and spat on the ground when Rand’s name was mentioned. “He’s a traitor to the movement, a Judas to his father and a lying son-of-a-bitch.”
At a time when Republicans should be celebrating the selection of a nominee and running mate, the convention attendees show little enthusiasm for the ticket they will anoint to try and unseat incumbent President Barack Obama.
Even the protestors who came to all political conventions find their crowds down and enthusiasm dampened by the approach of a tropical storm. Only about 30 showed up from Occupy Wall Street for a Sunday march. To make matters worse, police are keeping protestors across Tampa Bay in St. Petersburg — far away from the convention hall.
Romney comes to Tampa with the votes he needs to secure the nomination but still does not have the enthusiasm normally accorded a nominee.
“He’s not my first choice or even my second one,” says Loretta Connors, a Republican from Colorado. “I guess he will have do do.”
Some wonder if Romney can generate any real enthusiasm among the GOP base.
Political pros tell Capitol Hill Blue that Romney will need to give the speech of his life to come out of the convention with any hope of momentum and few think he is up to the task.
“He just doesn’t light a fire under the base,” says one GOP strategist who asked not to be identified. “He’s pabulum, floating in a sea of political mediocrity.”