TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Mitt Romney's Republican National Convention sputters to life with the lonely banging of a gavel in a mostly empty hall, hardly the opening splash intended for the nation.

With a sprawling and strengthening storm bearing down on the region, the GOP hastily rewrote the convention script in Tampa, Fla., to present the extravaganza's prime rituals and headline speakers later in the week — Tropical Storm Isaac willing.

Nothing is certain as the storm carves an unpredictable path toward the Gulf of Mexico, forcing planners to compress four days of events into three and otherwise improvise.

It's a complication, at best, for a party determined to cast the close election as a referendum on President Barack Obama's economic stewardship and Romney as the best hope for jobs and prosperity.