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Monday, August 27, 2012

Convention Diary: Tampa Is Red, White, Blue, and Black

Posted by Paul Constant on Mon, Aug 27, 2012 at 9:59 AM

[Paul Constant will be covering the GOP convention and sending in regular diary entries throughout.—eds]

Just as my plane was beginning its descent into Tampa, the sky turned a dire black. The gentle blanket of clouds that I'd heard were over the city all day was fleeing northward and some fast, evil-looking beasts were moving in, buffeting my plane and swirling the hot, humid air around in gelatinous chunks. An angry, red sun set in the west, straight down the fault line created in the sky by hurricane. It looks like Isaac is giving Tampa a wide berth, instead aiming itself directly at New Orleans. (It could land there on Wednesday, on the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. That sound you hear is hundreds of political writers around the country licking their chops at the same time over the prospect of calling back to one of George W. Bush's greatest failures in the middle of the Republican National Convention.) It seems my fears of being stuck in some sort of Terminal-like nightmare at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport were unfounded. I arrived right on time. I almost wrote that I arrived "safe and sound," but even with Isaac shooting far to the west, Tampa is preparing for damage. The winds are ramping up, rain is going to pummel the city for the next 36 hours, and there could be tornadoes. People are storming the grocery stores for bottled water, officials are reminding people that the situation is serious, and President Obama reportedly received a briefing from FEMA today about the safety of convention attendees.

This preparation for Isaac adds another layer to the elaborate preparation that the city has undergone for the Republican National Convention. Billboards along the highway trumpet the national debt in such a gaudy, bright advertising language that it's hard to tell whether they're for or against debt. An ad for something—I think a radio station—proclaims in loud letters, "DON'T BELIEVE THE LIBERAL MEDIA." The airport is all done up in GOP elephants and bunting; an alien might assume that Tampanians are preparing a sacrifice for an elephant god. A local informed me that the downtown area is being "guarded" by soldiers and Hummers. There's a weird mixture of sluggishness and excitement in the air tonight; it's impossible to separate the civic excitement for the convention with the civic dread of Isaac.

Even though the convention's Monday programming has been cancelled, I'm going to go downtown and see what's going on; it seems as though people are still arriving on schedule, and they now have an unexpected free day wedged into their itinerary. But because of the torrential rains, I'm going to leave my computer at the room I'm renting; I don't trust my supposedly waterproof bags and cases to protect my computer from a tropical storm. This means I probably won't have any updates on Blogtown until tonight, after I come in from the rain. I will probably be updating my Twitter feed if I find anything interesting between now and then. For now, I'm just going to lie in bed and listen to the weather.

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