With Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin's comments on rape and abortion, and Romney's joke about Obama's birth certificate, "August has been a month of distractions," Holt says. So how to prevent Isaac from becoming another one? Leverage it — carefully.
In keeping with the GOP message of people not relying too heavily on government, Republicans could "highlight people who are in some ways being entrepreneurial heroes ... people who are just, on their own volition, going out and helping people, protecting property and otherwise mitigating the storm damage," says Seth Masket, a political scientist at the University of Denver.
While some might see that as taking advantage of a bad situation, Masket says the danger is minimal because "the issue already comes politicized."
"It's a hurricane during a national convention," he says. "And the last time one of these hit New Orleans, it was a major political issue for the Republicans. It's going to affect them politically, whether they want it or not."
It might seem disingenuous, but Syracuse University professor Robert Thompson says Tampa organizers need to intersperse the speeches with prayers for Gulf Coast residents and moments of silence and, generally, "not make it look like you're clueless as to what's going on."
"A lot of people have grown cynical to that kind that of thing, but you have to do it," says Thompson, director of the school's Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture. "Maybe you could not plan your convention in a vulnerable city during hurricane season. But it's too late for that. They've rented the rooms and hired the catering."
The trick, he says, will be getting heard above Isaac's winds.
Associated Press writer Pauline Arrillaga in Phoenix, Joe Mandak in Pittsburgh and Andrew DeMillo in Little Rock, Ark., also contributed to this report. Allen G. Breed is based in Raleigh, N.C. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/AllenGBreed
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