POLITICS
10/31/2012 01:06 pm ET

Mitt Romney: After Sandy, Voters Should Come Together For Red Cross, Then Me

WASHINGTON -- After two days without rallies in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney returned on Wednesday to campaigning in full, using his usual stump speech at a Florida campaign stop to criticize the president's record.

And after calling for donations to support the Red Cross, he used the subject of the super-storm to segue to a call for voters to support him, too.

"We love all of our fellow citizens. We come together at times like this and we want to make sure that they have a speedy and quick recovery from their financial, and in many cases, personal loss," Romney said to supporters at a rally in Tampa, Fla.

"Now people coming together is also what is going to happen, I believe, on Nov. 7," he continued, referring to the day after the election.

The Republican nominee canceled rallies on Monday and Tuesday out of respect for those impacted by Hurricane Sandy. But he didn't remove all appearances: a campaign rally Tuesday was switched to a "storm relief" event where Romney gave brief non-political remarks and then spent slightly less than an hour collecting hurricane relief donations and loading them into a truck. On Wednesday, as President Obama plans to survey the damage from the storm rather than returning to campaign events, Romney was stuck with the challenge of going back to his election efforts without seeming too political in light of the tragedy.

Romney scarcely mentioned Obama by name at the Tampa rally, but it was, of course, obvious to whom he was referring.

"I don't just talk about change, I actually have a plan to execute change and to make it happen," Romney said, in a nod to Obama's 2008 campaign slogan.

Romney said the president has blocked drilling despite "an ace in the hole" that would ensure it could be done safely, that he has failed to be tough on China and to trade with Latin America, that taxes on business are too high and that the economy is being handled badly.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi gave the most negative comments of Romney's surrogates Wednesday, accusing Obamacare of killing jobs and seeming to praise the local sheriff, David Gee, for telling his employees that they will be hurt by the law.

"He just had to tell his employees health insurance, because of Obamacare, is being increased at a cost to them, at a cost to you with no added benefit to them," she said.

Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-Fla.) remarks at the event stayed largely positive. He praised Romney and Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.), who is running for U.S. Senate. But Rubio began his comments by saying his thoughts are with those in the Northeast impacted by Hurricane Sandy and encouraging Florida supporters to "pay it forward" by donating after the help they have received in the past.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) also spent some of his time talking about the hurricane, again pointing out that Floridians have experienced similar storms and should donate to help if they can.

Bush said his experience is that "it's the local level and the state level that really matters," possibly an allusion to controversy over Romney's previous statement that he would send disaster relief to state and local governments.

Outside the event, opponents to Romney didn't back off either.

According to a pool report: "A minivan with a mock dog on its roof, in a cage, drove slowly on the street in front of the hotel a few moments before the [Romney] motorcade began to roll."

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The Huffington Post is eager for insights from our community, especially people with experience in power, infrastructure and engineering, on the adequacy of emergency preparation in advance of Hurricane Sandy, and the degree to which past disasters have informed adequate planning and construction. Please send a note to sandytips@huffingtonpost.com with insights and suggestions for the important questions that need to be asked of relevant private sector and government officials, and point us toward stories that need to be pursued.

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