Hurricane Isaac Delays the Republican National Convention

Howard Kurtz on why the media wouldn’t have covered it anyway.

NOAA / Getty Images

TAMPA—Hurricane Isaac has hijacked Mitt Romney’s convention, and the damage is as hard to calculate as the extent of the damage from the coming storm.

Even as the sun filled the blue sky here after a day of light rain late Saturday, Republican Party officials decided to pull the plug on Monday’s proceedings, wiping out a quarter of the convention. And in truth they had no choice.

It’s not just that the party had to worry about the safety of delegates getting into the city. That goes without saying. But the media coverage will be so heavily focused on the storm and its effect on Florida’s west coast as to blot out any speechifying.

And imagine if there was intermittent coverage of Monday’s events. How would it look for various GOP luminaries to be denouncing Barack Obama, and partying in their spare time, while others are battling a big storm?

Television in particular loves what it calls “extreme weather.” Politics is a distant second. Now the story, at least until midweek, won’t be Romney and Ryan. It will be Isaac and its implications.

Actually, we don’t have to imagine. I remember being in Minneapolis on the first day of the 2008 GOP convention, and cable television was consumed by the hurricane then hitting Florida. John McCain canceled the first day, but even if he hadn’t, the media would have paid no attention to politics.

This time around, the second-guessing is sure to erupt: what were the Republicans thinking by holding their big event in a hurricane—and flood-prone Tampa as the season kicks off in late August?

Former GOP chairman Michael Steele, who made the decision, said he thought Tampa was safe because no hurricane had hit the area during the last week in August for 100 years. So much for playing the odds.

And how long before someone asks: what if the party is as reckless in handling the economy as it was in rolling the dice on Tampa?

It’s not fair, but life, and weather, are unfair.

There is one level on which the media’s Category 5 obsession with Isaac makes perfect sense. The storm is actual news, in the sense that we don’t know which way it is going to veer, how strong it will be, or how much damage it will inflict.

Contrast that with a convention in which every speech and event is choreographed, down to the last balloon drop. No wonder the convention has been trumped.

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Perhaps this is Mother Nature’s way of telling us that modern conventions no longer need drag on for four days.