CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing: The Big Left Turn

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus officially starts the convention today. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)

The CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing is being published from the GOP Convention in Tampa, Fla., this week. For more information on signing up to receive this free email, click here.



“The government works for the people and not the other way around,” Ryan told a raucous crowd of more than 1,000 people who came to a rally at Janesville Craig High School (he was class of ’88) — in a semi-autobiographical speech that aides said was a preview of how he’ll introduce himself to the nation Wednesday night. He planned to spend the rest of the day working with his staff and is headed to Tampa tomorrow, a day earlier than originally planned.



The Republicans are now destined to spend the next three days laboring to rebrand and relaunch Romney on a split screen — and by the time he delivers his climatic speech Thursday night he may be the secondary image on all of the TV networks. That’s because by then what’s now a tropical storm churning up the Gulf will have become a hurricane (probably Category 2, meaning winds above 96 mph) that has swept ashore and ravaged New Orleans — probably early on Wednesday, amazingly the seventh anniversary of Katrina’s cataclysmic strike. Crews and reporters from several networks, including GOP-friendly Fox, were already getting ready this afternoon to put down their convention credentials and pack up their ponchos for redeployment higher up along the Gulf Coast.

The convention orchestrators are helpless to change the weather, of course, but their abundance-of-caution decision to call off today’s opening session means they’re also helpless to fundamentally change (for a second time) their plans for using their precious free time on TV. There’s no way they will completely give up their time to stage their infomercials. And postponing the last night until Friday is not logistically possible; too many people have planes out that morning, too many hotel rooms have other reservations in place, too many TV trucks need to get on the road to Charlotte. The only way for the GOP to make the best of its potential public relations nightmare is to cancel (and persuade everyone else to also scrap) the parties planned for Wednesday and Thursday nights; to rewrite their prime-time speakers’ scripts to scrap some of the partisanship and substitute as much empathy as possible for any of the people who lose their lives or homes or livelihoods in the next 48 hours; to make sure that the “human side” the nominee is expected to reveal more of Thursday includes some connection to weathering high winds and flooded roads; and to pray (against all odds) that Obama will be just as slow as Bush was back in 2005 to take on the responsibilities of first-responder in chief.

Had the storm scored a direct hit here, Romney and the Republican bigwigs would have benefited a bit from some national sympathy. Instead, Isaac is now a big problem for a much bigger and more diverse slice of the country’s population. And, even if the storm does the highly unexpected and fizzles out, that won’t have happened until the convention week is more than half over — and so, no matter how the weather vagaries play out, Isaac will be remembered in GOP circles forever as the political complication that could not be avoided. A campaign that was supposed to be all about how badly Obama has done as president, and how much better Romney would be as an engineer of economic growth and job creation, last week became a campaign that was all about the widening gender gap. For this week, at least, it’s all about which party does a better job of knowing how and when to come in out of the rain.


Organizers have essentially no interest in the message from the protesters outside the hall, but they continue to fret a bit over the potential for some protesting inside — by disgruntled delegates for Ron Paul. They remain highly annoyed that their candidate was denied a speaking role, and they were egged on yesterday by the congressman himself, who never offered Romney his endorsement (or even a mention by name) during a 77-minute stemwinder to an outdoor rally of his supporters. Now, his delegates are threatening to try to mount a floor fight over a proposed closing of a loophole in party rules that has allowed their candidate (and, in theory, other insurgents) to hoover up delegates in states that staged non-binding primaries where they didn’t do very well. It remains unclear whether they will be able to force a vote on keeping the system the way it is, but any distraction from the tightly scripted and preordained proceedings would nonetheless provide fresh annoyance to the beleaguered convention organizers.



Meanwhile, a Mason-Dixon poll out today shows McCaskill opening up a 9-percentage-point lead (50 to 41 percent) in the days since Akin — whose name was misspelled twice here yesterday — started the abortion kerfuffle. It’s the first statewide survey by the firm since just before the primary, in late July; at that point the congressman was ahead of the incumbent senator by 5 points (49 to 44 percent) — the smallest lead among the three major Republicans then still in the race.


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More congressional campaign coverage is on Roll Call’s At the Races politics blog.

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