Thursday, December 5, 2013
By THOMAS BEAUMONT The Associated Press
TAMPA, Fla. - This is the convention prelude of the Republicans' dreams -- their nightmares, that is.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, arrives at the airport in Martha’s Vineyard for a fundraising event last Saturday. With the national GOP convention set for next week, distractions abound.
The Associated Press
PRIMARY CONVENTION COVERAGE SWITCHES
TO WEBCAMS, TWEETS, SOCIAL NETWORKING
NEW YORK - On the surface, television networks will cover the Republican and Democratic national conventions much like they have the past few election cycles -- a limited taste on the big broadcasters, more or less full time with the cable news networks.
Below the surface, things are dramatically different.
The Internet will give people more access to convention halls and a greater opportunity to become part of the political conversation. The popularity of social media and people experiencing big events on TV with tablets and smartphones has driven up TV ratings, most dramatically and recently for the Olympics, and television executives are curious to see if the trend continues in Tampa, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C.
"It is possible that social media and the discourse we can see there can help transform the conventions into something more dynamic again, something that involves the public," said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.
The convention opens on Monday.
ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News Channel, PBS and C-SPAN are live-streaming the convention online pretty much from start to finish, besides what is being offered on television. ABC News' online feed will mimic a television newscast for three hours prior to the network coming on the air. Bloomberg will stream economy-focused panel discussions that it holds with convention figures. PBS is stationing live webcams at the convention halls and surrounding areas. NBC News will host hangouts with some of its correspondents on Google Plus. C-SPAN's TV and online coverage is commentary-free.
ABC, CBS and NBC have promised three hours of televised coverage spread over four nights of each convention, down from four hours in 2008. The networks have compressed televised coverage over a long term on the theory that the conventions have become stage-managed events largely free of news; the online activity runs counter to this trend.
-- The Associated Press
Mitt Romney wanted to preside over a made-for-TV gathering showcasing his economic credentials and GOP unity.
Instead, he's heading to Tampa with the national debate focused on rape and abortion and with the divisions within his party - and with running mate Paul Ryan - on full display.
"It's a huge distraction," Saul Anuzis, a RNC member from Michigan and a top Romney backer, said of the emotional quarreling touched off by embattled Missouri Rep. Todd Akin earlier this week.
"We should be talking about the economy and here we are consumed by these side issues."
Even the weather is threatening to spoil Romney's party.
As Wednesday's rain pounded the arena and hotel complex where the convention is scheduled for next week, Anuzis lamented the tropical storm churning toward Florida.
He said that "it could cause havoc; it could be a chaotic situation from a transportation and security standpoint."
All this as a new Associated Press-GfK poll showed a neck-and-neck race between Romney and President Obama just over two months before the election.
Some 47 percent of registered voters say they plan to vote for Obama, while 46 percent favor Romney.
That's virtually the same as last month -- and evidence that Romney didn't get a bounce of support by choosing Ryan as his vice presidential nominee.
Romney and Ryan sought to gain ground Wednesday with fresh criticism of Obama on health care in separate rallies and with a new TV ad.
But Republican troubles persisted, just as the party had seemed to be moving past deep divisions between its establishment and conservative wings in the name of rallying behind its presidential nominee and beating Obama.
Instead, the ticket found itself still overshadowed by the uproar over Akin's refusal to drop out of his Senate race.
He caused a stir by saying that women's bodies have ways of preventing pregnancies in cases of "legitimate rape."
He has apologized repeatedly and has said he misspoke, but he also has bucked calls from top Republicans - including Romney and Ryan - to abandon his bid.
"It's bad timing. Akin happening now sort of amplifies the whole thing," Charlie Black, a veteran GOP presidential campaign strategist and informal Romney adviser, said, referring to distractions from the campaign's economic message.
Romney spokesman Kevin Madden tried putting the matter to rest during a campaign stop in Arkansas, telling reporters he did not expect the presumptive nominee to address Akin's comments further.
"We said what we needed to say," Madden told reporters.
As final preparations were being made for the four-day convention, there were fears rippling through the national party that fallout from the Akin situation demonstrated weakness by the GOP leaders who are uniting behind Romney.
But Black and others predicted that the national conversation will shift back to the economy -- and an unemployment rate above 8 percent -- by the time Romney accepts the nomination Aug. 30, and certainly by this fall.
"I can't imagine Obama running ads in suburban Pennsylvania in October tying Mitt Romney to Todd Akin," said Black.
"If he does, it means we're winning."
And then there is one thing completely out of Romney's control: Tropical Storm Isaac is bearing down on Florida, threatening to reach the Tampa area just as thousands of people are pouring into Tampa.
Convention officials say contingency plans are in place should the storm stay on its course for Tampa.
They are monitoring the storm but not yet contacting delegates about alternate plans.