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A subdued start for Republican convention as Isaac surges
Symbolic start » As the storm closes in on New Orleans, the week was turning out to be about both meteorology and politics.

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What passed for vocal dissent within the party came from supporters of Rep. Ron Paul, a Texas Republican who ran for the presidential nomination but failed to win a primary or caucus.

Delegates loyal to him threatened a floor fight later in the week over party rules. And they staged a brief but noisy demonstration at the rear of the convention hall after Priebus completed his brief turn at the podium, holding up placards bearing their man’s name. They stood in front of a permanent sign that said "We Can Do Better," appropriating Romney’s pledge to fix the economy to express a preference for their man.

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More than dissent, there was concern from within the party, though couched in supportive terms, that despite the political opportunity that the weak economy presents, Romney needs to broaden GOP appeal.

"This is Romney’s threshold moment. He must demonstrate that he would follow the example of other Republican presidents in addressing issues important to women," Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, wrote in The Washington Post, one of several party leaders to express the view.

Not that Obama and his surrogates were letting up on that subject.

In a tweet on Monday night, Obama circulated a quotation from Women’s Health Magazine suggesting that Republicans would take away women’s right to contraception. "Crazy as it sounds, the fight to limit or even ban birth control is a key issue in the upcoming presidential election," it said.

That was in addition to a controversy that combined rape and abortion that was triggered when the Republican candidate for a Missouri Senate seat said a woman’s body has a way of preventing pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape." Rep. Todd Akin, who opposes abortions without exception, quickly apologized for his claim, which is unsupported by medical evidence, but refused to get out of the race as Romney and other leading Republicans requested.

Polls testified to the political stakes.

An AP-GfK poll of registered voters conducted from Aug. 16-20 showed Obama leading Romney by 50-44 among women. That represented a narrow closing of the gap by the Republican from a survey in May, when the president led 54-39 among female voters.

Romney trailed badly among another key group. A Gallup poll taken between July 30 and Aug 1 showed Obama winning 60 percent support among Hispanic voters, and the Republican at 27 percent, little different from 64-29 earlier in the year.

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Among seniors, the group most affected by a Medicare debate that looms as central to the campaign, Romney led Obama by a margin of 52-42 in the recent AP-GfK poll. That was compared with 53-40 in May.

In Tampa, despite weather worries, Tom Del Beccaro, a California delegate and chair of the state GOP, predicted the one-day delay in full convention events would supercharge the rest of the week’s meeting.

"I think there’s going to be a lot of bottled up energy, and I think that’s going to show," he said.

But Sally Bradshaw, a Florida Republican and longtime senior aide to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, was more cautious. "It’s a mess all around and it’s fraught with risk," she said. "It’s not good for anybody — particularly the people impacted by the storm."

Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, speaking in his hometown of Janesville, Wis., before heading for the convention on Tuesday, said the stakes were as high as could be.

‘‘We’re not just picking the next president for a few years," he said. "We are picking the pathway for America for a generation."

In the streets surrounding the convention hall, police vastly outnumbered protesters.

There was one arrest, a man who refused to remove his bandana after a march through downtown.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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