By Richard Wolf and John Bacon, USA TODAY
The 2012 Republican National Convention was called to order with the bang of a gavel Monday, then quickly recessed, delayed a day by the storm that never came.
"It is my privilege to proclaim the 2012 Republican National Convention in session and called to order," GOP Chairman Reince Priebus said to a smattering of delegates in the cavernous Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Seconds later, Priebus closed the session. He stayed on the podium for a few more minutes, turning on the new "national debt clock" and telling delegates that it will serve a reminder of the need to elect Romney as well as the "unprecedented fiscal recklessness of the Obama administration."
He also asked for a moment of silence to honor the emergency responders and other people who will be charged with protecting people in Isaac's path. A brief video on nominee-in-waiting Mitt Romney was played.
Organizers called off Monday's events two days ago, when Tampa was considered a possible landfall spot for Tropical Storm Isaac. The storm stayed well west of the city, bound apparently for Louisiana or Mississippi, and sunshine was drenching Tampa by Monday afternoon.
The four-day convention is now scheduled for three, with Romney providing the climax with his acceptance speech Thursday.
Tom Del Beccaro, a California delegate and chair of the state GOP, predicted the one-day delay in full convention events would supercharge the rest of the week's meeting.
"I think there's going to be a lot of bottled up energy, and I think that's going to show," he said.
But Sally Bradshaw, a Florida Republican and longtime senior aide to former Florida governor Jeb Bush, was not so sanguine. "It's a mess all around and it's fraught with risk," she said. "It's not good for anybody - particularly the people impacted by the storm."
The storm threat also took its toll on a protest Monday held just blocks from the convention. What was planned as a 5,000-strong march on the convention attracted only a few hundred people from as many as 70 protest groups.
And they were marching to an abandoned convention site - Monday's main events were canceled due to storm concerns.
"If the hurricane weren't an issue, I believe there would have been more than (5,000)," said Robbey Hayes, 21, a member of Students for a Democratic Society and a student at the University of Florida.
The protest had five goals - good jobs, health care, affordable education, peace and equality.
Protest organizer Jared Hamil urged those in the sparse crowd to "take the streets" before they began marching to the convention site earlier Monday in wind and drizzle.
"Rain and wind - people still came to show that we can demand a better future," Hamil said. "No more to their agenda of poverty, war and hate."
As they marched, the protesters chanted: "Hey hey, ho ho, the GOP has got to go."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, in a video chat with USA TODAY, said the convention will continue and remain relevant despite the latest threats wrought by Isaac.
"Nobody can repeal mother nature," he said. "But we still have a presidential election this year."
The convention delay had some GOP leaders convinced that a three-day convention is better than four days anyway. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he believes future nominating conventions should be three days.
"I think these are very expensive propositions to put on. I think, given as much news as people get today and the way they get their news, I'm not sure having a four-day convention in the future makes a lot of sense," Boehner said at a lunch hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
Priebius said he hasn't had any conversations about further changes to the convention amid concerns that New Orleans could take a severe hit from Isaac.
"I think you can strike the right tone," Priebus said, when asked whether he was worried about the negative optics that could be created if Republicans are seen celebrating as New Orleans is hit with the dangerous storm. "Let's wait and see what happens with this storm first. The decisions we make are going to be respectful and mindful of the situation we are in. We are still going to tell the Mitt Romney story. It's a positive message about America."
Copyright 2012 USA TODAY