Illinois Republicans Unfazed by Storm Delay at National Convention
Tropical Storm Isaac has dismantled Illinois Republicans' convention plans. With national convention events cancelled, they will no longer spend Monday nominating Mitt Romney as their candidate for president. That leaves an opportunity for them to focus on state politics.
On Sunday, Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady downplayed the effect any severe weather would have on the plans of the state’s delegation. He said they would continue their work on Monday and throughout the week, despite the disrupted convention schedule and an ominous-looking sky above.
“Our schedule will continue as scheduled," Brady said. "We’ll have our breakfast and we’ll have the lunch meetings that some of the sponsors have put together. And then we’ll have the event that night at the hotel, so our schedule doesn’t change at all. I think we’ll be back on our full schedule Tuesday, I hope.”
The Illinois delegation is staying about 27 miles west from the national party’s events happening at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, where Romney is expected to formally accept his party’s nomination. The Republican delegation is represented by 69 people, who make up a collection of elected officials, traditional party supporters and young people faithful to the GOP who are attending their first Republican convention.
Many attendees from Illinois boarded a bus Sunday evening to attend a welcoming party for all convention-goers at Tropicana Field, the home of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team. As a steady drizzle fell across Tampa, the streets were deserted outside the stadium except for a large battalion of security officers. A chain link fence surrounded the perimeter of the stadium while groups of officers on bicycles rode along in packs.
Upon arrival at the Illinois delegation’s hotel, guests could pick up a series of different pamphlets supporting conservative causes. One included a schedule of classes for “Newt University,” which will include sessions on health care, energy and job growth taught by Newt Gingrich. Another pamphlet encourages convention-goers to sign up for a new email address with the domain name “@reagan.com.”
Inside the hotel, Republicans mingled and noshed on buffets of seafood and Cuban food while the group Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy performed acrobatics on a cube-shaped stage high above the floor. Multiple live music acts also played for the crowd that was enveloped by a landscape of red, white and blue table cloths, decorations and sculptures.
State Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) spent a lot of time in the hotel lobby Sunday, chatting with delegates and reporters.
“I’ve been lucky to be at every Republican convention since Detroit in 1980," Dillard said. "Radiologists go to the radiologist convention, golfers flock to the Ryder Cup – which is going to be in Illinois, in my area of the state, in a couple of weeks. It’s a political convention. I love the history. I love the pageantry. Even though it’s scripted. And it’s important to be here. You get the messages, you meet a lot of people. “
Concern for their safety is part of the why national officials cancelled the first day of the convention. Dillard said he will not let Isaac dampen his spirits.
"Well, we’re in Florida so I believe in making orange juice out of organs, or lemonades out of lemon," Dillard said. "But I believe we should use the time to unify as Illinois Republican Party.”
Dillard is one of a handful or so of names that often gets mentioned as the GOP’s next potential nominees for Governor in 2014.
Brady said he would rather the focus remain on the approaching fall elections, rather than one two years away.
“You know I hope not because we have a mission in 2012 and that’s to elect as many Republicans as they can and to support Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in the President race," he said. "People can do it. I would prefer they didn’t. I think we need to focus on the task at hand, which is the 2012 election.”
With Monday’s main events pushed back, the rest of the convention will work on a more condensed schedule. Speakers at the main event on Tuesday are scheduled to include former presidential candidate Rick Santorum, Ohio Governor John Kasich and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.