Both parties scheduled their national conventions in hurricane zones at the height of hurricane season. Charlotte is about 200 miles inland, but they have had a history of at least some damage from Atlantic hurricanes. Tampa is even more threatened, historically speaking.
And it turns out that Tropical Storm Isaac, currently in the Atlantic, should become a hurricane by Thursday, and by some estimates could get on a course to hit Tampa next week, when the conventioneers come to town.
“There is still way too much uncertainty right now, and it’s too early to know what effect it could have in the U.S. and in Florida. It depends on how much time it spends on land in Cuba. We don’t know what kind of shape it will be in by the time it clears those islands,” said Dennis Feltgen, spokesman for the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
“There is no immediate threat to the U.S. at all, but it is a concern, and we would urge folks to pay attention to this thing,” Feltgen said. “Check in over the next few days, and if you don’t have a hurricane plan and pack in place, you might want to start doing that.”
In 2008, Hurricane Gustav, which hit the Louisiana coast, forced RNC planners to cancel some events at their convention in Minneapolis, including a speech from President George W. Bush, who had drawn criticism for his handling of Hurricane Katrina, which swamped New Orleans in 2005.
There’s a decided difference between the optics of a hurricane shutting down one day of a convention (and let’s marvel at the fact that, not but four years ago, the mere incidence of a hurricane was considered a net negative for Republicans), and a hurricane hitting the site of the convention. It’s still a bit speculative to say that this will happen, as noted above. But if Tampa does face a hurricane, the city’s mayor told CNN they would call off the convention.
“We’re prepared for it, we’ve trained for it, we have contingency plan after contingency plan,” (Mayor Bob) Buckhorn said. But in the event of dangerous weather, “human safety, human life trumps politics,” he said.
And Buckhorn is absolutely right. What the GOP would do at that point is anybody’s guess. I’m assuming that one of the options is not “put a plank about fighting climate change, which perpetuates more intense and more frequent weather events, into the party platform.”