WASHINGTON - The threat of Tropical Storm Isaac isn’t keeping Arkansas Republicans from heading to Tampa, Fla., where the party faithful will gather this week to formally nominate Mitt Romney as their presidential candidate.
The four-day convention will give 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-Ryan 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. Harris said 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.
On Saturday, the Republican National Committee announced that Monday’s events had been postponed because of the storm, scrubbing opening-day speeches by two Arkansans. Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock and and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
"This party is going to be very unified and very excited," said Republican Party of Arkansas Chairman Doyle Webb. "We have a ticket that can restore the economic engine of our country and put people back to work."
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.
Monday’s subtheme was to be "We can do better," according to Schriefer, focusing on what the GOP sees as the failures of the Obama administration and how a Romney administration would change course.
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 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.