As forecasts grew grim, Obama dispatched the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist, and the White House said the president was closely monitoring the storm.
"The president also told the governor to let him know if there are any unmet needs or additional resources the administration could provide, including in support of efforts to ensure the safety of those visiting the state for the Republican National Convention," the White House said Sunday.
The president had no immediate plans to visit. But he might — as most presidents do — if the damage is severe. And if he does, Romney would have to weigh whether to proceed with his convention or scrap more parts of it — and cede the limelight to the man who holds the office he wants.
Mindful of the danger of appearing to put politics before safety, Vice President Joe Biden, the Obama campaign's surrogate-in-chief, canceled a campaign swing through Florida on Monday and Tuesday.
Back in Tampa, Romney's convention planners were busy working to cram four carefully scripted days of speechmaking and celebration into just three. The announcement delaying the start of the convention came late Saturday, with Romney mindful of the good politics of putting safety before, well, politics.
"The safety of those in Isaac's path is of the utmost importance," Romney said in a tweet late Saturday.
Insisting on a four-day affair could have put delegates' safety at risk, while tying up law enforcement and emergency officials who otherwise would be dispatched to deal with storm fallout. That would have left a black mark on the convention, with potentially lasting political consequences in a critical battleground state and perhaps elsewhere.
Romney's decision drew praise.
"Governor Romney and his team have handled the situation correctly," former Gov. Bush, a Republican, told The Associated Press. He added: "There is no reason to cancel the event."
Michigan delegate Saul Anuzis agreed, saying: "It's such a huge logistical event, you can't call it off."
The question Romney and his team continue to weigh: how to proceed with the party while being sensitive to the uncertainty of Isaac and its potential to wreak havoc on the Gulf Coast, which has become a symbol of dysfunctional government under a Republican administration.
Among the considerations: whether to tone down plans to sharply criticize Obama and focus more heavily on Romney's other goal, promoting his own vision. Speakers scheduled for Monday had planned to start making the case against Obama.
Republican strategists suggested Romney celebrate without going overboard.
"You can tone down the happy-days-are-here-again a bit," said Rich Galen, a veteran Republican consultant in Washington. "Maybe you don't have the biggest balloon drop in history."
Associated Press writer Steve Peoples contributed from Wolfeboro, N.H.
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