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Organizers put final touches on GOP convention, finalize speaker lineup

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Aug. 24, 2012: Riggers load nets full of balloons for the Republican National Convention festivities inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum, in Tampa, Fla.AP

The 2012 Republican National convention is nearly “built,” with the lineup set and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie anchoring the event as the keynote speaker. Now comes a few bells and whistles.  

The four-day event in Tampa was scheduled to begin Monday with a mix of well-established and rising Republican stars and much of the anticipation focused on Christie. He is said to be working on a “very direct” script for Tuesday night that delivers “hard truths” about the state of the country.

However, the start of the convention has been delayed because of Tropical Storm Isaac. The storm is expected on strengthen into a hurricane and pass the Tampa coast Monday, bringing heavy rain and strong winds. 

The convention will officially start Monday but events will not begin until Tuesday. One event already pushed back from Monday to Tuesday is the roll call for delegates to officially nominate Mitt Romney for president, which will allow him to accept the GOP nomination.

The formal nomination process will begin earlier this year in part because of concerns about disruptions by delegates still supporting former GOP presidential candidate Texas Rep. Ron Paul.

Romney is scheduled to give his acceptance speech Thursday night after being introduced by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio – one of several vice presidential contenders expected to have a prominent speaking role at the convention.

Musical entertainment at the convention is scheduled to include a performance by Southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd and Tenor Phillip Alongi singing the National Anthem on Tuesday. Alongi sang the anthem at the party’s 2008 national convention in Minneapolis.

Ann Romney is scheduled to speak Tuesday night. Two governors already on some short-lists as the next potential GOP presidential nominee – Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Bob McDonnell of Virginia -- are also scheduled to speak Tuesday.

Vice presidential candidate Wisconsin Rep. Raul Ryan will speak Wednesday night.

The mix of new and established Republicans taking the stage also includes freshman New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Ohio Gov. John Kasich -- first elected into public office in 1979.  

They will be joined by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who challenged Mitt Romney deep into the GOP primary. 

Joining the party’s biggest stars will be actress and conservative radio show host Janine Turner. She has appeared in such shows as “Dallas” and “Northern Exposure,” in which she had a leading role for five years.

The theme of this year’s convention is “We Did Built This,” a response to President Obama telling small-business owners last month “You didn’t build that,” because government helped.

The main events will be in the Tampa Bay Times Forum, in the city’s downtown.  The convention will host  2,286 delegates and 2,125 alternate delegates from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and five territories.

The events will be covered by roughly 15,000 credentialed journalists, an international press corps second only in size to this summer's London Olympic Game,  organizers said. The organizers also hope to bring the convention to people worldwide through the Web and a social media effort they call “a convention without walls.”

The 20,00-seat venue, formerly known as the Ice Palace, is home to the Tampa Bay Lightening pro hockey team and in 2011 underwent a roughly $40 million renovation, reportedly to be in contention for the event, which will bring an estimated 50,000 people.

Roughly 7,500 volunteers have been recruited to help visitors, for whom organizers have secured 16,000 rooms in 105 hotels. The Republican Party is also hosting a party Sunday at Tropicana Field for as many as 20,000 invited guests that will feature country singer Rodney Atkins, officials said.

Paul is also hold an event Sunday, though not a part of the official party program.

Paul, a libertarian, will hold a rally at the University of South Florida. Organizers are expecting an overflow crowd of more than 10,000.

Two other Romney challenges, Herman Cain and Minnesota GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann, also will take part in an unofficial event – the 2012 Unity Rally on Sunday.

The event is co-sponsored by TheTeaParty.net, which is circulating a petition to get the Republican National Committee to allow Tea Party leaders to speak at the convention.