TAMPA, Fla. -- The Republican National Convention got off to a wet start this week with Hurricane Isaac churning through the Gulf, but events got back on schedule Tuesday, a Southwest Georgia delegate to the convention said.
State Rep. Ed Rynders, R-Leesburg, is one of Georgia's 76 delegates and 73 alternates who are attending the convention, which was essentially compressed from four days into three because of concerns about the storm.
Because of the cancellation of Monday's events -- other than the ceremonial starting of the debt clock at 2 p.m. Monday -- Tuesday's schedule picked up an additional five hours of activities, kicking off, following a brunch with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, at 2 p.m. "Typically, that (start) doesn't happen until 7," said Rynders, who is attending his third national convention.
But Monday wasn't a loss, he said, because the members of the Georgia delegation, who are staying at the Grand Hyatt, had an opportunity to mingle and get to know each other, something that there typically isn't enough time to do during a convention, he said. "It forced us to mingle with delegates from other parts of the state," Rynders said, "talk about different political dynamics. ... I really believe hearing different perspectives from different parts of the state was something unique."
The Georgia delegation was fired up Monday from a surprise visit from Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Sunday, one that Rynders said was energizing. "He gave a great speech that got the Georgia delegation going on Sunday," Rynders said, noting that Priebus referred to encouraging children and grandchildren to work to be successful.
"Sometimes we lose sight of earning success," he said. "I think that really struck a chord with folks."
The only controversy that arose Tuesday was how U.S. Rep. Ron Paul's supporters were to be treated. RNC officials want a unified support for the party's nominee, in this case former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and the other major candidates, including former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich who carried Georgia and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, had released their delegates so that they could endorse the Romney nomination. "Most of the states honored those delegates that decided to stay with Ron Paul," Rynders said, with 72 of Georgia's delegates supporting Romney, three backing Paul and one abstaining.
While some states had sizable Paul groups that cast votes for him, Rynders said, "Most everybody was in support of the nominee."
On Tuesday night, a great deal of excitement centered on Ludmya "Mia" Love, a 36-year-old African American from Utah who, like Romney, is a member of the Mormon faith. The mayor of Saratoga Springs, she is the GOP nominee in Utah's 4th Congressional District and is trying to unseat six-time U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, a Democrat, in the Nov. 6 General Election.
"If you want to look for someone flying under the radar screen that really got people in a buzz ... she really captivated the audience," Rynders said. "She drew the audience in."
The Hill newspaper in its political blog noted that by Wednesday Love was the fastest rising search term on Google search engine.
From there, Rynders said, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie kept the energy going, delivering some sharp one-liners about the Democrats.
"I think the best one, and I'm paraphrasing this, is when he said, 'This administration supports teachers' unions, we support teachers,'" Rynders said. "That got everybody up on their feet."
The focus of the night was Obama's statement earlier in the campaign that small businesses had to rely on the government for success, he said, a theme that carried into Ann Romney's speech.
"She said his (Mitt Romney's) success wasn't given to him," Rynders said. "It's that theme of success and hard work." He said there were placards with phrases such as "We built this."
Still compared to the other conventions he's attended, Rynders said he felt this one has been more upbeat and less negative toward the Democratic administration. "It wasn't as strong as I've seen in the past," he said, adding he felt Ann Romney did a good job of relating Mitt Romney to the public.
"Ann Romney did an outstanding job," he said. "I think she did what she needed to do, let people know the human side of Mitt Romney that most of America doesn't know."
She spoke about their early married life when the couple lived in a basement apartment with an ironing board for a dinner table, adding she was wondering what type of life she had gotten herself into. But five sons later, she said, she has no regrets.
"It was very heartfelt and she was warmly received," he said.
The nominee's wife noted that when people hear of tales about happily after, they don't include real-life such as dealing with multiple sclerosis or cancer. She had early stage breast cancer and in 1998 was diagnosed with M.S. "Those are real-life situations where you know if someone does love you," Rynders said.
One delicate balance has been how to carry on the convention when Isaac was bearing down on the Gulf Coast -- and New Orleans -- making landfall just short of the seventh anniversary of Katrina.
"You don't want people to think you don't care about the rest of the country," Rynders said. "And we get concerned about how the media will portray us."
One fear was a network like MSNBC juxtaposing a devastated New Orleans with an RNC party on a split screen. That type of concern wasn't misplaced. On Wednesday, Yahoo News, which is live-streaming coverage of the convention with ABC News, fired its Washington bureau chief, David Chalian, after he remarked during video of the Romneys that "they are happy to have a party with black people drowning." While the remark was made into an active microphone before the live convention coverage was to have begun, it was broadcast over the Internet.
As the delegation was preparing Wednesday to hear from the roster of speakers that was to include Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Arkansas Gov. turned talk radio and TV pundit Mike Huckabee, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Romney's running mate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Rynders said the theme was set to shift to, "We Can Change It."
"His pick was a very interesting pick," he said. "The word bold has been used. President Obama doesn't want the issue to be the economy. He wants it to be taxes or something else. The selection of Paul Ryan was Mitt Romney's message to America that, no, this (election) is about fiscal responsibility. There's no one better at being a policy wonk on that issue than Paul Ryan."
Two subjects that haven't popped up with any frequency so far -- protesters and U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., whose controversial remarks about rape drew calls from the GOP, including Romney, for him to drop out of the Missouri senatorial race.
"We haven't seen the protesters," Rynders said. "My previous two (conventions), we saw them up close." Authorities have closed some rooftops and bridges where objects such as cinder blocks that could be tossed at conventioneers in vehicles have been found, he said.
Meanwhile, Rynders said, Akin has been "barely mentioned. That's another reason Obama would rather be about Bain, Mitt Romney's taxes or Akin because the last thing he wants to talk about is the economy. The last Democratic president we had was Clinton saying, 'It's the economy, stupid.' Now, we have a president who wants make the race about anything other than the economy."