'Split-Screen Tuesday' as the paths of Tropical Storm Isaac and the Republican Party finally diverge

Finally the paths of Tropical Storm Isaac and the Republican Party have diverged. Isaac will make landfall near New Orleans overnight. And 600 miles to the East the Republican Convention will begin in earnest.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at the 2012 Republican National Convention Credit: Reuters

On one level, it's a presentational nightmare for the party. How can they release their 10,000 balloons and celebrate Mitt Romney's coronation while evacuations are underway all along the same coastline?

The problem has been called "Split-Screen Tuesday." The danger is that the US TV networks have simultaneous images of the storm's devastation and the Convention playing into Americans' living rooms. At best it diverts attention from the Republican message; at worst, it makes the party looks insensitive and out-of-touch.

But hold on a second. There is an alternative narrative. Today in Tampa we await the speech of Ann Romney. She has a formidable challenge, but one she might achieve.

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and his wife Ann Credit: Reuters

Mrs Romney must persuade Americans - if they are listening - that her husband is a job-creating machine, not a predatory venture capitalist. She must project her husband as a compassionate husband and father not a charisma-free technocrat.

Above all, she must - as the strategists put it - humanize him. The key statistic on Mitt is this:

  • Only 41% of Americans believe that he understands their needs and problems
  • If Romney wants to win the White House that needs to change dramatically

Amid the gloom here, generated by the distraction of the storm and the different factions fighting for the soul of the party, there is one bright spot for Republicans

The polls continue to show this race can be won. The White House is within Mitt's reach. A CBS poll just out - like other recent ones - shows the election is on a knife-edge. Obama is edging Mitt Romney among registered voters by 46% to 45%. That is well within the margin of error.

So if Ann Romney succeeds tonight, if Mitt succeeds on Thursday night, then it is still possible that Isaac may be seen as another small drama on the road to power.

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