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Rain Delay Won’t Dampen Illinois Delegation At GOP Convention

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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Updated 08/27/12 – 2:42 p.m.

TAMPA, Fla. (CBS) — The Illinois delegates have arrived in Tampa, Fla., for the Republican National Convention, saying the storm that forced the shift to a dramatically abbreviated schedule on Monday has been overblown.

With Tropical Storm Isaac bearing down on Florida, Republican bosses took no chances and cancelled virtually the entire opening day program as a precaution, while delegates struggled to get into Tampa on storm-delayed flights.

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine and WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore report, the sunshine state’s welcome was as warm as possible, given the circumstances.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore Reports

The convention was quickly gaveled into session Monday afternoon, then immediately went into recess until Tuesday, so delegates could find cover and stay safe.

It wasn’t exactly swimming weather at the beachfront hotel where more than 300 Illinois delegates, alternates and guests have been setting up shop for the week, and everyone knows it’s only going to get worse.

“I think the committee was prudent, not to put buses on the highway with high winds when you don’t have to have them there,” said Dan Rutherford, the Illinois delegation chairman.

The Illinois delegates did board those buses for a welcome reception at Tropicana Field, down south across the causeway in St. Petersburg.

But for most of them, their first visit to the convention floor in the downtown Tampa Bay Times Forum won’t come until Tuesday at the earliest.

“Monday is not big day anyway,” said state Rep Tom Cross. “We will have enough time to let people get to know Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney.”

Tampa was expected to avoid the worst of Isaac – as wind and rain on Monday weren’t much different than a typical summer thunderstorm in Chicago – but GOP leaders decided it was better to be safe than sorry.

Still, what’s done was done, and most of the Illinois delegation never left their hotel in Clearwater Beach, 25 miles away from Tampa.

Consider the fact that Chicago’s nickname “The Windy City” has nothing to do with the wind outside, but hot air of the politicians inside. You could say the same thing about the first meeting for Illinois Republicans in Florida on Monday.

Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady, welcoming delegates to Tampa before the convention started, said, “the retooled, reinvigorated, refocused Illinois Republican Party – that, through our best-in-the-nation victory program in this election cycle – is going to elect Mitt Romney [as] President of the United States.”

At times on Monday, the weather in Tampa was fit only for the heartiest kite-boarder, taking advantage of the wind, not bothered by the drenching rain. At other times, Tampa actually saw some sunshine.

“As a Chicago guy – and I went outside today – I don’t know what the fear is about. I know that safety’s the primary concern, but I’ve walked down Wacker Drive in worse storms,” Brady said.

Delegates, while anxious of get started, didn’t seem to mind the 24-hour delay in starting full-scale convention festivities.

Illinois State Rep. Sidney Mathias, a Romney delegate, said, “Actually, it gives time to meet your fellow delegates. I think it’s good developing camaraderie.”

Fellow Romney delegate Isaac Hayes said, “We can kind of build the morale among one another, and also have an opportunity to enjoy this great city.”

State Rep. Dan Brady (R-Bloomington) noted that the 2008 convention in Minneapolis was also disrupted when Hurricane Gustav hit the Gulf Coast. Then GOP candidate John McCain toned down the first day of the convention and several keynote speeches were canceled.

While the threat of the storm – and any danger to those in Tampa – had passed, it was not out of sight, out of mind for those at the GOP convention.

Pat Brady said convention organizers are monitoring Isaac’s progress to see exactly where it lands – as well as how powerful and potentially damaging it will be when it makes landfall – to make sure Republicans don’t appear to be celebrating while others are suffering the storm’s wrath.

“If it goes that way … I guarantee that [Republican National Convention Chairman] Reince Priebus will do the right thing,” Brady said.

That, of course, is the wild card for the GOP convention — where and how hard Isaac will hit land. Actually, that’s just about the only unknown in Tampa. As for the convention itself, these days party conventions have become pretty predictable.