GOP Convention Running Smoothly, Despite Early Threats

Convention kicks off successfully, big events still to come.


TAMPA---Republicans have been able to overcome the twin logistical nightmares of an impending tropical storm and a group of unhappy, pro-Ron Paul Maine delegates to thus far deliver a successful convention, with about half the festivities behind them.

Behind the scenes, the real threat that a hurricane could clobber the area as thousands of top politicians, media and Republican delegates were arriving caused headaches for convention organizers and staffers.

One Republican staffer said the uncertainty thrust into what typically is a highly scheduled week left a lot of plans in flux and required everyone to remain flexible.

[Read: N.J. Gov. Christie spills on his Romney endorsement.]

But thanks to the decision to scrap the first day of official events in favor of a condensed scheduled on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and the storm's change in track sparing the gulf city from most of the destruction, events have run smoothly.

Delegates spent their "free" day settling into the city, checking out the convention space and partying. The ancillary convention events, such as delegate breakfasts, speaker's forums, and sponsored parties, for the most part went on as scheduled.

On Tuesday, the GOP got down to business—officially nominating Mitt Romney as its presidential candidate and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate. With a state roll call of delegates casting their ballots, the pageantry and high spirits permeated the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

[Check out U.S. News Weekly: an insider's guide to politics and policy.]

There was a brief, vociferous disruption when some disgruntled Maine delegates, who had been denied seats on the floor due to an intra-party skirmish, began booing and chanting Texas Rep. Ron Paul's name. Paul, a former Romney rival, is a libertarian known for his impassioned followers. His son, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, is scheduled to speak on Wednesday.

Ann Romney, Mitt's wife, headlined the prime time speeches on Tuesday, followed by the keynote address from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Romney clearly wowed the audience inside the arena with her straight-forward pitch to women voters and introduction to the man she fell in love with. Officials on the floor for the speech said people were very impressed with both her natural delivery and stage presence.

[Read: It's official, the GOP picks Mitt.]

Christie, on the other hand, gave a serviceable speech that popped more on paper than in person. Known for his wit and direct speaking style, the affable governor delivered, laying out what he has called the "stakes for the election in general terms."

In addition to the more formal activities, rallies and random photo ops with GOP royalty like media personality Ann Coulter, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich or Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus have popped up throughout the convention. And the parties, with the free-flowing alcohol and cigars, rock stars like Mark McGrath and even a stage cameo by actress Juliette Lewis, have impressed as well.

The convention's success will ultimately be measured by how Ryan's speech, scheduled for Wednesday night, and Romney's, scheduled for Thursday, are received outside of Tampa. But the report from officials, locals and delegates alike is that the Grand Ole Party is truly living up to its name.

Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at or follow her on Twitter.