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Ill. RNC delegates waiting out Isaac storm with state politicking

(Amanda Vinicky/Illinois Public Radio)

Tropical Storm Isaac has dismantled Illinois Republican’s convention plans. With national convention events canceled, they're no longer spending Monday nominating Mitt Romney as their candidate for president. That leaves an opportunity for them to focus on state politics.

Illinois Public Radio's Amanda Vinicky reports from the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

A warm welcome

A flock of volunteers, and a person dressed as a pelican dressed as a pirate, greeted everyone getting off a plane in Tampa this week.

The festive spirit continued for Illinois delegates at the hotel where they’re based for the week. Mimosas and champagne were waiting for them in the lobby.

Also waiting in the lobby were Illinois politicians.

Especially those who may have their eyes on running for higher office, like Senator Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale, Ill. who spent a lot of time in the lobby Sunday, chatting with delegates, and with 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."

Dillard is one of a handful or so of names that often gets mentioned as the GOP’s next potential nominee for Governor in 2014.

Look for that to be an undercurrent to the week’s official events. 

Time to posture

A gathering that brings together most of the party’s head honchos the perfect time and place for politicians to put out their feelers, to make connections with potential donors and supporters, and to quietly posture.

Illinois Republican Party chairman, Pat Brady says he hopes the focus remains on the 2012 election.

“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.  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.”

Brady also says he thinks Romney's speech will be "very compelling."

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, a lot of people are really excited, particularly excited about the recent polling numbers and fundraising numbers, and we’re very excited to hear Governor Romney’s speech because I think it’s going to lay out his life’s story and what he wants to do for the country and I think it’s going to be very compelling.”

Republicans from across the nation were supposed to spend today officially nominating as the GOP’s nominee for President.

Event cancelations and transportation issues

But the intrusion of tropical storm Isaac forced organizers to cancel the day’s events.

A Tampa Bay radio station warned of high winds, and pelting rains.

Of particular concern for Illinois; the delegation’s hotel is in Clearwater, nearly an hour’s drive from the main convention center in downtown Tampa - a drive over long causeways that may have to be closed were Isaac to let forth its full wrath.

Instead, delegates will spend today at the resort.

Where last night, showers already began to let loose.

State officials say their Isaac hasn’t changed their plans much. Illinois Republicans still began with a breakfast, and a slew of speeches.

But the beach party they’d had planned for the evening? That’s been moved inside. 

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @amandavinicky

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