(Photo: REUTERS/Brian Snyder)
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney canceled a campaign event planned for Friday in Virginia, and instead visited parts of Louisiana hit by Hurricane Isaac. Democrats were displeased with Romney's visit which came before President Barack Obama's scheduled visit on Monday.
Romney met with residents and local officials in the town of Lafitte, and had a brief conversation with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. "I'm here to learn and obviously to draw some attention to what's going here so that people around the country know that people down here need help," The Associated Press quoted Romney as telling Jindal.
Since Romney's visit came the day after the Republican National Convention, and despite Obama's plan to tour the state the day before the start of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, Democrats questioned the Republican candidate's gesture.
"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," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a statement.
Democrats also criticized Romney's running mate Ryan, saying he opposed disaster relief funds last fall. "It is an affront for Mitt Romney to go to Louisiana given what the Ryan budget would have meant for our emergency preparedness," charged Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.).
However, Romney adviser Stuart Stevens told reporters that the former Massachusetts governor had already been in touch with Jindal about the impact of the hurricane. "I don't understand why that would be remotely inappropriate," he said, and asked if there was a protocol on this.
"The convention's over, this is happening," Stevens added. "Now it's not as disruptive because it's not in the middle of the storm. And it's important to see it and show support for the people. Get a briefing from the governor."
The Louisiana governor explained he had also invited the president to visit areas damaged by the hurricane. "We're not talking politics. That's not the right time to do that. We're solely focused on the hurricane and the response," he was quoted as saying.
According to a White House statement, Obama will visit Louisiana Monday. The president will "meet with local officials and view ongoing response and recovery efforts to Hurricane Isaac."
Obama canceled a campaign visit planned for Monday in Cleveland. But he plans to campaign in Iowa, Colorado and Ohio before visiting Louisiana.
White House press secretary Jay Carney defended Obama's delay in visiting the state. "Obviously when you're president of the United States, coordinating travel carries with it unique logistical challenges," Carney told reporters. "It was the assessment of the president's team working with all the people involved in operations as well as people on the ground that Monday was a good day."
The president spoke to troops and veterans in El Paso on Friday, discussing mental health services for returning troops.