Democrats know what they’re getting. Republicans aren’t so sure.

Which makes this week’s GOP convention in not-so-sunny Tampa, Florida, so crucial. The man they will anoint as the challenger to Barack Obama, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, has riven the party with his moderation on policy and dearth of personality through a bruising primaries campaign. His running mate, Paul Ryan, who few Americans would have known before he was chosen, has enlivened the base of the party over the past few weeks but threatens to embarrass Romney with his legislative work on a controversial budget — and the fact he could upstage him on the campaign trail.

Just what the country — and the world — will get if it lets the Republicans back into the White House will become clearer this week. As the storm clouds lift over Tampa, amid the only-in-America political pomp, a queue of party elders, congressional upstarts (remember it was the 2004 Democratic convention when the country first heard from Obama) and devoted family will take to the podium to talk up this odd-couple outfit. Is this a credible alternative to a recession-hit president who has (inevitably) under-whelmed in his first term?

Guy Rundle is sheltering from hurricane Isaac and files today on how a city — and nation — is battening down the hatches for the Republicans. We reckon his 2008 election swing was compulsory reading (and critics agreed). If you’ve been bored or bamboozled by the run to the White House before, start tuning in today. It’s getting real.