|Anti-GOP protesters carry banners during a protest march on the streets of Tampa, Florida August 27, 2012. (AFP/MLADEN ANTONOV)
TAMPA, FLA. - While there is supposedly no second chance at making a first impression, the Grand Old Party has to somehow negate the perception that it remains a mixture of rich whites, birthers, and radical conservatives.
And it can be done.
Unless tropical storm Isaac develops into a news-hogging hurricane equalling Katrina, Republicans endorsing presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his sidekick Paul Ryan will have no greater a prime-time opportunity before November's election than the next three days in Tampa.
The Republican National Convention will not only have the eyes of all Americans, there will be stem-to-stern coverage from international news organizations, including the Sun News Network, to see if the GOP can muster the support to boot Barack Obama from the White House.
There are ways to do this.
Just as Prime Minister Stephen Harper had to convince Canadians that the then-new Conservative Party had distanced itself from the extreme right positions of some Reformers as well as the wishy-washiness of Red Toryism, Mitt Romney will have the next 72 hours to sell a similar game plan to a skeptical American public.
Polls have shown Americans care less about a politician's tax returns than what a politician can credibly do to reduce their tax burden and get a handle on the country's runaway debt. Because it really is about the economy, stupid, Romney and Ryan will never have a better opportunity to outline their no-nonsense plan to get America back in the black.
The GOP itself has a story to tell and can boast of clear gains in both elected women and minorities. They have record numbers of women in both congressional caucuses: 24 in the House, including nine rookies, and five in the Senate.
They've also got Cuban-American Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to convince undecided Hispanics that the GOP has become more inclusive.
If Romney truly wants to blow the gates off the convention, however, he could tell Republicans in Missouri not to vote for senate hopeful Rep. Todd Akin, and that he'd rather see anyone elected than a social pariah who believes women's bodies can reject the seed coming from what he calls "legitimate" rape."
In fact, it might just erase a few first impressions.