At RNC: pirates, showgirls, and possibly a defector

There were seafaring pirates and circa 1950s Cuban-style show girls mixing it up with the masses as strobe lights and disco music pumped up any dampened spirits. Despite Tropical Storm Isaac and Political Hurricane Charlie, thousands of Republicans ventured out on their convention buses to party at Tropicana Field Sunday night.

As one delegate from upstate Texas told me while watching the scene and munching on chocolate-covered cheesecake balls on a stick: “There are two kinds of liars, weathermen and politicians.”

So here we are in the City of Champions, with delegates still a little wet on Monday from the rain emanating from Isaac’s track up the Gulf and white hot angry with former Gov. Charlie Crist. He delivered a wallop to his former Grand Old Party with his op-ed in The Tampa Bay Times throwing his support to President Obama.

“I’m shocked. I’m surprised he did it,” Gov. Rick Scott told TV crews who came throughout the day to Tampa’s emergency center to get updates on Hurricane Charlie. Actually, they were there to find out about Isaac, but the inevitable Crist question came up again and again.

No matter.

Florida’s delegates, already relegated to a resort an hour’s drive away from the convention, with its voting force cut by half because the GOP-controlled Legislature had the audacity to move up the Republican Primary to January, weren’t fretting. On Sunday, some were enjoying golf at the Innisbrook Golf Resort, where each hole had an American flag named after a Republican president. Bush 41 and 43 made the course, as did Teddy Roosevelt, Abe Lincoln, and, of course, Ronald Reagan.

Meanwhile, Ron Paul of the GOP’s libertarian wing was holding his own event, something of a marathon speech that lasted more than an hour while the rain bands came and went around town. But Paul’s laissez-faire politics aren’t what most Republicans want. They want laissez-faire economics, sure, but state control over women’s reproductive rights and gays’ legal liaisons.

For most Americans, marriage remains a word for heterosexuals, polls show, though the gap continues to close. On “pro-life,” the Republicans are making ground with American voters, though there, too, polls show a majority supports a woman’s choice on abortion.

Missouri’s U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin’s pregnancy and rape remark hasn’t helped the Romney campaign’s efforts to reach out to women. And even though Romney is pushing to get Akin to step down from the race, Missouri’s GOP delegates told Politico that Mitt should butt out.

So the GOP world turns, and “salsas” with Willy Chirino at a sold-out event Monday night at the Cuba Club sponsored by the American Conservative Union and Future Majority Project. It’s a push, coordinated by ACU’s Al Cardenas of Miami to attract more Hispanic voters nationwide, particularly pro life and small business people who Jeb and George W. Bush courted with ease until the party went to war on illegal immigration.

United in their ire at President Obama’s audacity to create a “Nanny State” with Obamacare, Republicans are now poised to officially nominate Mitt Romney and his vice presidential choice Paul Ryan.

The streets near the convention center on Monday had some protests, but the real action begins Tuesday. Now a potential international incident is in the air. Word is the daughter of one of Cuba’s vice presidents has defected and she’s in Tampa.

Nothing like a Cold War defection to raise our spirits.