WASHINGTON — The threat of Tropical Storm Isaac isn't keeping Arkansas Republicans from heading to Tampa where the party faithful will gather next week to formally nominate Mitt Romney as their presidential candidate.
WASHINGTON — The threat of Tropical Storm Isaac isn’t keeping Arkansas Republicans from heading to Tampa where the party faithful will gather next week to formally nominate Mitt Romney as their presidential candidate.
The four-day convention will give the Arkansas Republicans a chance to witness first hand where Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan hope to lead the nation.
“We are all ears. We want to get to know Mitt Romney,” Jonathan Harris of Springdale, said Friday on his drive down to Tampa.
Harris, 43, is serving as an alternate delegate. His wife, Julie, is a delegate. They both attended the GOP national convention four years ago in Minnesota.
Harris had initially backed another candidate but now supports Romney and says convention goers need to unite behind the Romney ticket.
“We need to show our support,” he said. “We are beat hands down if we are divided.”
As to Tropical Storm Isaac, Harris said he was hoping it would weaken before passing by Tampa. Still, he planned to keep apprised.
Arkansas is sending 36 delegates, 33 alternates and dozens of guests to the convention. The delegation had a welcome dinner planned on Saturday and a formal delegation meeting on Sunday. The dinner is sponsored by Bentonville-based Walmart.
The convention officially opens on Monday and will feature two Arkansans. Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, is speaking during the day session while former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee addresses the convention that evening.
“This party is going to be very unified and very excited,” said Arkansas Republican Party Chairman Doyle Webb. “We have a ticket that can restore the economic engine of our country and put people back to work,” Webb said.
This will be Webb’s ninth national convention, but is his first as state party chairman. He and his staff have been planning for almost a year for the convention.
Webb expects the delegation will have an excellent experience and will return energized for the Nov. 6 elections.
“The convention builds team spirit,” he said. “And you learn first hand about the nominee.”
Romney Campaign Strategist Russ Schriefer says the convention’s overall message is that Republicans offer a better future. They plan to drive that theme home each day with a different focus.
On Monday, when Griffin and Huckabee speak, the subtheme is “We can do better,” he said. The speakers will address the failures of the Obama administration and how a Romney administration would change course.
The convention roll call will take place Monday afternoon, with states announcing their delegate support in alphabetical order. Schriefer is planning for Romney to secure enough delegates for the evening television news at 6 p.m. EST.
Romney will deliver his acceptance speech on Thursday evening to close the convention. That evening will be spent “telling Gov. Romney’s story in a complete way,” Schriefer said.
Delegates will hear from those who Romney helped through his work with the Mormon church as well as Olympic athletes, Schriefer said.
“I have no doubt that Gov. Romney and Congressman Ryan will challenge and inspire the delegates, and all of America next week, with their plan to change the direction of our country,” said Rex Terry, a delegate from Fort Smith.
Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., is looking forward to Romney’s speech.
“I know he is going to do a good job,” he said.
Boozman is not addressing the convention but is speaking at a private luncheon being held by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Mostly, he is looking forward to meeting with the Arkansas delegation.
“When you spend a whole week with folks and eat several meals together you get to know about them and their families,” Boozman said.