News Column

Obama to Tour N.J.; Romney Back on Campaign Trail

October 31, 2012
Presidential Elections

The Hurricane Sandy pause ended for Mitt Romney as he was to return to the campaign trail, while President Barack Obama planned to tour devastated New Jersey.

The Republican presidential nominee said he would resume campaigning Wednesday with three events in battleground state Florida.

Obama was to tour New Jersey storm damage Wednesday with Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican who has been a scathing critic of the president but who lavished praise on Obama Tuesday for his storm disaster management.

"The president has been great," Christie, who often represents Romney at campaign events, told MSNBC. "The president has been all over this and he deserves great credit."

He made similar remarks in several other national TV interviews. Some Republicans objected to Christie's effusive praise at a crucial time in the election.

When Fox News Channel asked Christie what he knew about the possibility Romney might tour New Jersey's damage, Christie replied: "I have no idea, nor am I the least bit concerned or interested. I have a job to do in New Jersey that is much bigger than presidential politics. If you think right now I give a damn about president politics, then you don't know me."

Obama and Christie were to tour the damage starting at 1 p.m., the White House said. They were also to talk with citizens recovering from the storm and thank first responders "who put their lives at risk to protect their communities," the White House said.

Some Republican strategists expressed concern TV news coverage could provide striking images of Obama touring New Jersey destruction alongside Christie while Romney campaigned in Florida.

The Romney campaign acknowledged Tuesday a "storm relief event" in the swing state of Ohio may have come off like a campaign rally.

The event in Kettering, Ohio, near Dayton, was in fact supposed to be a rally before it was turned into a relief event for storm victims.

Tables in a high school gymnasium were stocked with canned goods, torches, batteries, blankets and other staples. Large TV monitors showed the American Red Cross logo and appealed for donations.

But the event still featured country music singer Randy Owen from 1980s group Alabama, who performed. And it started with a short biographical video touting Romney's record as a leader and problem-solver that is typically played at Romney campaign events.

Signs outside the gym said the room was closed for a "Republican campaign rally," and at least one woman wore a T-shirt reading, "Obama, you're fired," The New York Times reported. Thousands of supporters chanted "We want Mitt!" before the candidate appeared.

Romney top strategist Stuart Stevens was quoted by National Public Radio as saying, "I agree" the Romney promotional video blurred the line between storm relief and politicking.

"I don't know how it happened," he said. "Some volunteer just pressed play, I guess."

Romney ignored questions from reporters about whether he would dismantle the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is providing post-Sandy disaster relief services. He had suggested in a Republican primary debate he might do that and turn FEMA services over to the states.

Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said the former Massachusetts governor wouldn't necessarily get rid of FEMA but would put states in charge because they're in a better position than the federal government to help individuals and communities.

Source: Copyright United Press International 2012

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