After a summer in which one thing after another has gone wrong for the Republican presidential challenger, this was to have been his big week, the chance to hit the reset button and to secure a commanding lead that would take him all the way to the White House.
But tropical storm Isaac appears to have other ideas. Working its way up from Cuba through the Florida Keys and threatening to turn into a full-blown hurricane, the weather system presents enough of a threat to low-lying coastal Tampa to cause Republicans to cancel Monday's opening. There is an outside chance that Tuesday and Wednesday could be disrupted too.
The National Hurricane Centre said the worst of the storm is expected to remain west of Tampa but later in the week the "combination of a storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters". It added that in the Tampa Bay area the water could reach 1 metre to 1.5 metres (3ft to 5ft) above ground.
At the Tampa convention centre, where the convention is to be held, hotel staff were stockpiling sandbags just in case. Secret service staff in charge of security were taking down tents set up for screening delegates on the way into the convention centre.
A concert on Sunday night for delegates arriving early, by a group best known for the southern anthem Sweet Home Alabama, Lynyrd Skynyrd, whose frontman Johnny Van Zant is a Romney supporter, was cancelled because of the storm.
The Democrats had planned some diversionary tactics of their own to disrupt the convention, including sending vice-president Joe Biden to Tampa on Monday and elsewhere in Florida on Tuesday. This too has been abandoned. Barack Obama's campaign still managed to get a hit in. To the embarrassment of Republicans, a former Republican governor Charlie Crist endorsed Obama in an editorial for a Tampa paper.
In spite of the storm, Romney's campaign team insisted the convention will not be a washout. "We will absolutely be able to get our message out," said Russ Schriefer, a Romney campaign adviser who is overseeing the convention programme. "We absolutely think we can do it in three."
Each day of the convention had been regarded as vital in building up a profile of Romney, still largely unknown to many Americans, culminating in his speech on Thursday evening which is expected to attract 20-30 million television viewers. Romney has been running neck-and-neck in the polls with Obama for months – the incumbent holds a 1% lead nationally – and he needs to break out this week, to establish a poll bounce of about 5% and hope that he can hold that through to the White House election on 6 November.
The bounce will only come if Romney secures plenty of prime-time television coverage of his speech along with the host of Republican stars who are talking him up in convention appearances. In short, he needs the television crews covering thunderous outbreaks inside the building, not outside.
The convention will be formally opened on Monday and immediately adjourned until Tuesday. Monday's campaign theme was going to be "we can do better". Romney was also going to pass the magic number of 1,144 delegates, the majority needed to formally secure the party's presidential nomination. A host of party luminaries had been lined up to speak and will be moved to alternative slots later in the weeks.
The Republicans also lost the first day of their 2008 convention, in Minneapolis-St Paul. The circumstances were different, though. The Twin Cities were not threatened by the weather, but the presidential candidate John McCain felt it was insensitive to begin the convention as a hurricane was bearing down on New Orleans, with misplaced fears that its defences might again be breached.
Week after week over the summer Romney has seen his campaign plans disrupted. The Obama campaign forced him on the defensive over his time as chief executive of Bain Capital, the company where he made his fortune. He also made gaffes, including his criticism of planning for the London Olympics. Then there were party allies who had let him down, such as senate candidate Todd Akin, who offended just about as many people as it is possible to offend with his "legitimate rape" comment last week.
The decision to hold the convention in Florida was taken when Michael Steele was Republican chairman. Steele was unpopular but he is unrepentant about the Florida decision, telling his critics through the Politico website that it was a joint decision with other party officials. His critics – and saying they "just need to stop that shit, ok, get over it".
The Republicans had good reason for choosing Florida: it is one of the top three swing states that could decide the White House race. Taking the convention to Florida increases the party's profile in the state. But it was always going to be a gamble holding it in the hurricane season, one Romney and the Republicans have already lost.
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image: © Gage Skidmore