Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) spoke on behalf of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney at a "storm relief and volunteer appreciation" event in Ohio on Tuesday, serving up a generous portion of hyper-partisan rhetoric on President Barack Obama's handling of the September attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya.
"This president is either engaged in a massive cover-up deceiving the American people, or he is so grossly incompetent that he is not qualified to be the commander in chief of our armed forces. It's either one of them," McCain told Romney volunteers, according to NBC News.
Four Americans died in the Sept. 11 attack on the compound in Benghazi, and conservatives have questioned how the Obama administration handled both the developing situation and its aftermath.
McCain's decision to politicize the supposedly apolitical event underscores the difficulty of Romney's stated move to put aside campaign tensions after the storm. Obama canceled his functions in order to survey damage in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
As the death toll from the hurricane continued to rise Tuesday morning, Romney held a similar "storm relief" event in Ohio. HuffPost's Elise Foley reported that Romney addressed only the storm, leaving aside politics, and spent most of his time encouraging supporters to do what they could to help those in need. He also dropped the traditional campaign music in an effort to tone down his appearance, but a video biography of the former Massachusetts governor's life did air before his remarks.
"We have heavy hearts, as you know, with all of the suffering going on in a major part of our country," Romney told supporters. "A lot of people are hurting this morning and they were hurting last night."
After his remarks, Romney helped collect and box up donations that his supporters had brought for victims of the hurricane.
Romney declined after the event to address questions of a political nature, ignoring reporters' inquiries about how he would deal with disaster relief funding and whether he would visit New Jersey to survey damage from the storm.