TAMPA, Fla. — Tropical Storm Isaac has forced Gulf State governors to delay or possibly abandon their trips to the Republican convention in Tampa in order to prepare for Tropical Storm Isaac.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal have said that, at a minimum, they will be delaying their trips. Apart from them, the prominent Republicans who won’t be in Tampa are primarily party leaders of the past, as well as one failed GOP presidential hopeful, and a few GOP Senate contenders.
Former President George W. Bush and his father, former President George H.W. Bush, have both decided to not attend the convention, but former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is scheduled to be there and has been given a featured speaking spot on Wednesday night.
National conventions are partly designed to honor those who have brought the party victory in the past. Ronald Reagan gave seven GOP convention addresses, the first of them as an unsuccessful presidential contender in 1968, asking the delegates to make Richard Nixon’s nomination unanimous, and the last of them his farewell at 1992 event in Houston, one of the most poignant convention performances of the television era.
In that 1992 farewell, Reagan reminded delegates of the creed that still defines Republicans today: “We believe that no power of government is as formidable a force for good as the creativity and entrepreneurial drive of the American people.”
But not all ex-presidents are equal in terms of their stature after leaving office.
When Reagan left office, 63 percent of Americans approved of his performance as president. But when George W. Bush left office in 2009, his Gallup approval rating was only 34 percent. So it’s hardly surprising that Bush won’t be at the Tampa convention. Former Vice President Dick Cheney will also not be attending.
The 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin will be another Tampa non-attendee, but the man who chose her to be his running mate, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, is also slated to be speaking at the convention on Wednesday night.
Another Tampa absentee will be former ambassador to China and Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, whose bid for the Republican nomination found little support among primary voters.
At least four GOP Senate candidates will be skipping the convention: Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri – whom party leaders are pressuring to exit the race after his inflammatory rape comments -- New Mexico’s Heather Wilson, Virginia’s George Allen and Montana Rep. Denny Rehberg. All four are in what are likely to be competitive races, although Akin’s future as a candidate remains uncertain.
Another Republican Senate candidate in a competitive race, Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, will be spending one day at the Tampa convention.