Conservative firebrand Chris Christie and rock-steady nominee spouse Ann Romney are being called on to kick-start an Isaac-shortened GOP convention today with opening speeches aimed at revving up delegates and setting the stage for Mitt Romney's nomination.
"He is going to be a dynamo," said U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) of New Jersey Gov. Christie. "He's entertaining, he tells it like it is, he zings it to our loyal opposition, and I think this house is going to erupt."
An added shot of adrenaline will come from Mitt Romney, who will touch down in Tampa today to watch his wife address the convention.
Romney aides have read both Ann Romney and Christie's speeches, which are expected to be roughly 20 minutes long, but kept mum yesterday on the details. Campaign officials are counting on the speeches to unite delegates as well as refocus the event away from the storm and on the general election ahead.
"No question the governor and Mrs. Romney will do a great job of welcoming us to Tampa and welcoming us to the future of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan," said Jim Merrill, a New Hampshire consultant for Romney.
Wicker said the boost is much needed as delegates such as himself keep their eye on Tropical Storm Isaac's path through the Gulf Coast, which was heading directly for New Orleans as of yesterday. He said he and U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) may have to leave if their state is hit with major damage.
"Right now it's still up in the air. If I can be of assistance by going, then Sen. Cochran and I may yet go back," he said. A.J. Matthews, a Florida Republican delegate and U.S. Coast Guard reservist, said he may be deployed depending on the damage.
"We have some serious business to get Mitt Romney nominated as our next president of the United States. That said, as long as we have our responsibilities, we keep them, but I could even end up being deployed up there to assist," Matthews said.
The ongoing storm, along with a disgruntled Tea Party, means pressure is high to unite the room during Christie's keynote address.
"Different people are upset about different things, but at the end of the day when you look at what's at stake here, people are going to look at this opportunity to repeal Obamacare," said Amy Kremer, chairwoman of the Tea Party Express.
Christie promised to bring his trademark straight talk to the event, saying, "You don't know what's gonna happen when I burst out of the gate at 10:30 on Tuesday night."
Romney strategists are expecting Ann's address to ensure the nation knows about the warm, compassionate side of the former Bay State governor's often PowerPoint-heavy personality.
"Ann's going to do a hell of a job," said Neil Newhouse, a Romney campaign pollster. "There's no better place to learn about Mitt Romney, the kind of person he is, than listening to Ann."
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