“I”m here to learn”: Romney preparing for presidency as he shows up Obama with visit to storm-ravaged Louisiana
President Barack Obama was today forced to announce he will fly to storm-hit Louisiana on Monday – hours after Mitt Romney beat him to the punch by deciding to head there this afternoon.
After it emerged that Obama was still taking time to fit in a campaign stop in Cleveland, Ohio, before checking out how clean-up operations are proceeding in the Bayou state, the Obama campaign abruptly cancelled that event, though he will still hold a rally in Toledo, Ohio before heading south.
But the Republican presidential candidate touched down in the Hurricane ravaged state this afternoon – a full three days before Obama – touring the flooded areas around Lafitte and showing his support for local residents.
Clean-up: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, pictured, was in Lafitte, Louisiana, this afternoon talking to locals after Hurricane Isaac
“I”m here to learn and obviously to draw some attention to what”s going on here,” Romney told Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who he accompanied to the town hall to meet with emergency workers. “So that people around the country know that people down here need help.”
Romney had changed his schedule to head to the affected town outside New Orleans while Obama, who has yet to visit the Tropical Storm Isaac zone, headed off to Texas to campaign.
But the Obama campaign said today, in a terse statement, that the President would now visit the flood-stricken state early next week.
“In light of the President’s travel to Louisiana to meet with local officials and view ongoing response and recovery efforts to Hurricane Isaac, President Obama will no longer travel to Cleveland, Ohio on Monday, September 3,” the statement read.
Beat Obama: Romney, left, and wife Ann, centre, talked with Governor Bobby Jindal, right, during a tour of the flooding
Relief effort: Romney, pictured in LaFittee, centre, has been at the RNC in Tampa, Florida
Supplies: Romney points to clean-up supplies while talking to locals in Lafitte today
Entourage: Mitt Romney”s motorcade, pictured, passes through damage from Hurricane Isaac in Lafitte, Louisiana, this afternoon
Motorcade: Mitt Romney”s motorcade, pictured, tours flooded areas caused by Hurricane Isaac
Jindal said he had been in contact with both Romney and Obama in recent days and said he welcomed them both to the state in their time of need.
“We”re not talking politics. That”s not the right time to do that. We”re solely focused on the hurricane andthe response,” he said.
Seven years ago, President George W. Bush was lambasted for inaction and incompetence in dealing with Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and much of the Mississippi and Louisiana gulf coast.
Romney’slast-minute trip to New Orleans came as his wife Ann told CNN that swing women voters in particular had told her that “it”s time for the grown-up to come, the man that”s going to take this very seriously and the future of our children very, very seriously”.
He opted out of a joint campaign appearance in Richmond, Virginia with Paul Ryan, his vice-presidential running mate, to head to Louisiana.
Texas tour: President Barack Obama greets members of the military and their families at Fort Bliss, in El Paso, Texas
Troops: President Obama, pictured, speaks to troops in Texas but will travel to Louisiana on Monday
The first day of the Republican convention in Tampa was cancelled as Isaac bore down on Florida and the Gulf of Mexico area.
Jindal, who was on Romney’s vice-presidential shortlist, abandoned his convention speech to oversee storm relief.
The trip to Louisiana was sandwiched between previously announced campaign stops in Lakeland, Florida, where he will be joined by Paul Ryan, and Cincinnati.
White House spokesman Jay Carney, asked what a private citizen like Romney could accomplish by visiting a disaster area, said he wasn”t sure how to answer the question.
“I think that it”s always important to draw attention to the fact that individuals and families and business owners are profoundly affected. … That”s an important thing to do,” Carney said.
Change of plan: Romney will travel to LaFitte in Louisiana, pictured, before flying to Cincinnati
Damage: Homes in the town have been ravaged by flood waters from Tropical Storm Isaac this week
A Romney aide told ABC News that Romney would “join Governor Jindal and will meet with first responders, thank them for their work and see areas impacted by the storm” in LaFitte, Louisiana, some 20 miles south of New Orleans.
On a visit to Indianapolis on Wednesday to speak at the American Legion convention, Romney joked about the storm before expressing his concern.
“I appreciate this invitation to join you on dry land this afternoon,” he said to laughter. “Our thoughts are, of course, with the people of the Gulf Coast states.
“We”re grateful that it appears Isaac will spare them from the kind of damage we saw during Katrina, but for many in the Gulf Coast who just finished repairing their homes and are getting a life back to normal, this must be a heavy burden.
No show: President Obama, pictured on a campaign stop to Charlottesville, Virginia on Wednesday, has yet to visit the storm-ravaged area where four people have died and thousands have lost their homes
“So today our thoughts are with them, our prayers go out to them, and our country must do all we can to help them recover.”
Earlier this year, Rep. Paul Ryan – Romney”s running mate and chairman of the House Budget Committee – proposed eliminating $10 billion a year in disaster spending and requiring Congress to pay for emergencies by cutting from elsewhere in the budget. That proposal was blocked by GOP leaders.
“It is the height of hypocrisy for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan to make a pretense of showing sympathy for the victims of Hurricane Isaac when their policies would leave those affected by this disaster stranded and on their own,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in a written statement.
Senior strategist Stuart Stevens said the timing of Romney”s trip shouldn”t raise questions.
“I don”t think it”s inappropriate,” Stevens said.
In Lafitte, emergency crews were assisting victims of Hurricane Isaac, which hit the coast with wind speeds of 80mph on Tuesday and brought flooding to the area before it was downgraded to a tropical storm.
The storm, which is lumbering north at a pace of just 5mph, has claimed four lives in Mississippi and Louisiana, ravaged homes with as many as 18 inches of flood water, and left more than 900,000 people without power.