It was literally a higher power putting the brakes on events in Tampa, Florida. Tropical Storm Isaac continued to veer dangerously towards the venue of the Republican National Convention over the weekend and on Monday morning, prompting convention organisers to postpone the bulk of events to Tuesday and after.
The man at the centre of events in this rain-lashed city, presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, is set to take the stage on Thursday evening to deliver what will be a much-watched speech that will set the tone for the remainder of the election campaign until November.
While Isaac is set to pass west of the convention location, all events on Monday were cancelled, except a symbolic, ten-minute opening ceremony. The more-than-50,000 convention attendees — including delegates, media and vendors — had to be resigned to waiting indoors, hoping for less inclement weather.
Meanwhile the revised schedule of speaker events at the convention turned up a surprise entry, an invocation by Ishwar Singh, a member of the Sikh Society of Central Florida. His inclusion gains significance in the wake of the August 5 shooting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, in which an alleged white supremacist killed six worshippers at the gurdwara.
Speaking to The Hindu Mr. Singh said that his invocation would be an opportunity to show the whole country who Sikhs are, in particular, “We want to convey that we are peaceful, believe in one God, everyone is created equal and can come pray with us.”
Even as the tone of the campaign rhetoric between Mr. Romney and President Barack Obama has thus far been bitter — stridently so in some of the more controversial television advertisements — the Republican Party leadership appeared pushing for a softer touch in the days leading up to the convention.
Among its efforts to portray a more emotional side of Mr. Romney was the release of a rare pre-convention television interview with him and his wife Ann by television channel CNN, titled “Romney Revealed: Family, Faith and the Road to Power”.
Seeking to break the existing image that Mr. Romney is said to have — of a hard-nosed businessman focused primarily on economic issues — the interview broke new ground showing how he and Mrs. Romney dealt with her diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, and how much religion has mattered in his personal life. A similar interview with Mr. Obama is set to air on September 3.
Yet, recent events may have made the task of reaching out to disaffected constituents harder for the Republican party leadership — particularly in the wake of one of their members, Congressman Todd Akin making controversial remarks on “legitimate rape,” which enraged women’s groups across the country. Similarly, a series of violent shooting incidents in Colorado, Wisconsin and New York have put some Republicans in an awkward position vis-à-vis their support for lax gun laws.