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For a while now, we've been calling Mitt Romney the presumptive nominee. Today it is official. Republicans meeting in Tampa will nominate the former Massachusetts governor. This as their convention finally gets underway after a weather delay. Republicans remain concerned about Isaac and the storm's possible impact on the Gulf Coast, seven years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Those fears and memories not withstanding, delegates in Tampa say they are ready to get to work. Here's NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.
CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: Today, thousands of Republican delegates will fill the Tampa convention hall. The red, white and blue motif offset by the signs announcing each state and an electronic tally high overhead flashing numbers. Republicans say it highlights how the national debt will grow under President Obama during the convention. Yesterday was the official start of the gathering.
REINCE PRIEBUS: So it is my privilege to proclaim the 2012 Republican National Convention in session and called to order.
(SOUNDBITE OF GAVEL BANGING)
CORLEY: Just moments later, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus rapped the gavel again, putting the session on hold until today. Republicans had scrambled, working to realign the convention as Tropical Storm Isaac approached and moved menacingly towards New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.
A smattering of delegates showed up for Monday's brief session. Caroline Wright of Utah brought two of her four children with her.
CAROLINE WRIGHT: This is exciting. This is - I feel like this is almost a once in a lifetime. I mean, I don't know if we'll ever be here again.
CORLEY: Today, there's plenty on the Republican's agenda. Cam Ward, an Alabama State lawmaker, served on the platform committee. He says final approval of the document will come later this afternoon.
STATE SENATOR CAM WARD: Which will serve as our - kind of our party blueprint for the next four years.
CORLEY: That blueprint is sometimes at odds with Mitt Romney's position, like the platform's opposition to all abortions, while Governor Romney would allow for abortion in cases of rape, incest and where the mother's life is in danger. Still 33-year-old Virgil Cruz, a delegate from Texas, says he can't wait for delegates to step forward during the convention's roll call to support the Republican ticket.
VIRGIL CRUZ: We need to make a change, you know. America has been on the wrong path and I think Americans, by and large, feel an unsettling feeling that things have not gone well. And so the people who are here are energetic and they're ready to move on. And Romney and Ryan are our choices, and we're going to support them in November and make it happen.
CORLEY: But there is likely to be some dissent.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I don't need a debate. I'm not here to debate.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Well, I'm just trying to correct you...
CORLEY: There were some spirited discussions. Delegates loyal to Ron Paul, the Texas Republican who ran for the presidential nomination, battled with Romney supporters over new party rules. Rules they call a power grab that allow a presidential candidate to select delegates rather than each individual state. Taylor Watered, an alternate from Vermont, said Paul supporters aren't quite ready to throw in the towel.
TAYLOR WATERED: We're not trying to demonize any Romney delegates. We want to communicate with the Romney delegates. You know, like have an organized, you know, civil, you know, talk about it.
CORLEY: Outside the convention hall there've been protests as well.
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting) Hey, hey, ho, ho, the GOP has got to go. Hey, hey, ho, ho...
CORLEY: Brent Foushee, an unemployed carpenter, was among the activists who said they were determined to speak out against the Republican agenda.
BRENT FOUSHEE: They are so extreme on the other side. There's no moderation. There's no willing to, you know, just to come to an agreeable middle. It's like moderation is like evil nowadays. When did this ever happen?
CORLEY: Republicans here offer a different picture and say that Americans are suffering because of the economic policies of President Obama. They're certain the convention will energize Republicans for the November election, and the speakers who hope to do so tonight include Mitt Romney's wife, Ann, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Tampa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.