- Delegates are resolved to champion their message on or off the convention floor
- While they awaited shortened schedule, delegates attended parties and other events
- Delegates are aware that the compact convention schedule will streamline GOP message
Republican National Convention delegates remained undaunted on Monday with Tropical Storm Isaac washing out big opening day festivities.
But some events, meetings, and networking opportunities around the convention went on as scheduled, despite gusty winds, light rain and a darkening forecast for Gulf Coast areas now in the path of the giant storm.
The delegation from Ohio still had their breakfast with party luminaries who included Sen. Rob Portman, previously vetted for the No. 2 spot on the ticket, and Craig Romney, one of Mitt Romney's sons.
"We are conducting ourselves as if we're at the convention and prepared to trumpet our message to the American people even though we're not on the convention floor," said Clarence Mingo, an Ohio delegate and first-time convention attendee.
GOP officials were forced to scrap Monday's main events due to Isaac, which passed west of Tampa but churned through the Gulf of Mexico during the day. It was predicted to strengthen into a hurricane taking aim at the northern coast.
Republican Party officials instead will squeeze the program into three days, starting Tuesday with the lengthy roster of speakers largely intact.
Isaac also caused transportation problems for Republicans trying to get to Tampa. Delegates whose flights were delayed arrived weather-worn but prepared for a possible storm and for the pending parties.
"I packed a flashlight! Never done that before," Cyndy Aafedt of North Dakota told CNN. "I even went and bought batteries before I came."
Sunday night, many delegates imbibed at a party at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, home of baseball's Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Others attended a beach party hosted by U.S. House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio.
Iraq War veteran and Kentucky delegate Mark Metcalf, who has attended a number of previous conventions, said he was inspired despite the lousy weather.
"I'll take a bad day in the U.S. versus a good day anyplace else. The phrase the 'American way of life' is not empty. It means something," he said.
Although there were no big speakers, delegates packed in a full day of activities with meetings, working luncheons and plenty of networking.
"I'm definitely looking to see what other organizations are hosting events," said Orit Sklar from the Georgia delegation who is looking forward to attending panel discussions and roundtables.
She planned to attend "Nuestro Noche," an event focused on Latino issues.
"It's been a great opportunity to learn and see how the American political process plays out on the highest levels," said Mingo, who is also an auditor for Franklin County, Ohio. "The enthusiasm has served to sustain any amount of energy loss I might have had."
Still, the delegates are aware that the shortened schedule means their message will have to be streamlined. Mingo and fellow Ohio delegates have tried to talk up Republican Party values wherever they go — even while shopping.
"Going forward we must have a compact message with a great a lot of force," Mingo said. We don't need a tropical storm message, we need a hurricane message."