Davenport, Iowa (CNN) – Mitt Romney spoke Monday with officials from the Federal Emergency Management Administration and the National Weather Service as Hurricane Sandy slammed into the U.S. East Coast.
Romney joined the representatives from the agencies, as well as officials from the Department of Homeland Security, on a 20-minute phone call at 4 p.m. ET while the GOP nominee was in Davenport, Iowa for an event, according to campaign spokesman Kevin Madden.
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The presidential candidate received updates on the progress of the Category 1 hurricane, as well as the status of federal, state and local disaster relief efforts, Madden said. Romney was further briefed on the potential effects to states and communities in the storm's immediate aftermath.
Romney's comments about FEMA, made at a CNN Republican primary debate in June 2011, received renewed attention Monday. At the time, Romney said he favored states taking on a large role in disaster relief. "Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that's the right direction," he said.
Asked Monday whether Romney held the same position he did at the June 2011 debate, Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg explained the candidate believes "states should be in charge of emergency management in responding to storms and other natural disasters in their jurisdictions."
"As the first responders, states are in the best position to aid affected individuals and communities, and to direct resources and assistance to where they are needed most," Henneberg said. "This includes help from the federal government and FEMA."
While Romney canceled his campaign plans in Virginia on Sunday, in addition to an event in Wisconsin Monday night, he still held a rally in Iowa Monday. The campaign said the event was attended by 2,250 people, according to a count of those who went through security.
"I was speaking today with the National Weather Service and the folks at FEMA as they're preparing for the landfall of a very dangerous hurricane. It's going to affect a lot of families, it already has," Romney said at the event.
He continued: "And the damage will probably be significant and of course a lot of people will be out of power for a long time and so hopefully your thoughts and prayers will join with mine and people across the country as you think about those folks that are in harm's way."
The former Massachusetts governor encouraged supporters to donate to the American Red Cross. "We love our fellow Americans, wish them well!"
President Barack Obama, who also canceled campaign events, spoke to reporters in the White House Briefing Room earlier Monday, saying "millions of people" will feel the storm's impact. He held a briefing Sunday at FEMA's headquarters in Washington, D.C. and met with officials on Monday in the White House Situation Room.
- CNN's Rachel Streitfeld, Kevin Liptak and Ashley Killough contributed to this report.
What the hell is he doing talking to the Coast Guard and FEMA? He has no official position! What is he telling them? Vote for me or you will have no job! Like his business cronies have been doing. This is shameful pandering. Please voters, do not elect this Paulie Walnuts look alike . If you do, you will bringing on a disaster ten times worse than Sandy
The President meeing with FEMA is the story, not Mr. Romney trying to co-opt when he has no standing to effect anyting but his attempt to look like he can.
Why is Romney speaking with FEMA, the agency he wants to do away with? He does not hold any official position so I don't think he should be doing anything right now. Let the President and the governors and mayors handle it. Stay out of the way!
The pandering continues, exactly why is he speaking to Fema? Because he wants to be able to pretend to his followers he can actually affect something. I have never seen a presidential candidate openly lie as much as this guy to get the job. No moral compass at all. SAD
Yes, this is the guy that wants to slash federal aid from the budget. If he's President, no one would be helped by this storm (at least not by the government). What a hypocrite! He's disgusting.
Is he speaking with them to give them their pink slips? Romney has said on many occasions that he would cut FEMA and disaster relief. In this article his campaign says that disaster relief should be left up to states (ie. raise taxes at the state level to pay for these usually federally subsidized efforts).
chill out you are not the president yet....
Why is Romney talking to FEMA? He is not the president, nor does he hold an official government position. What a grandstanding move. I guess he wanted to fire them.
He's not the president, he's a candidate. He has no authority to help or do anything constructive. Why is he wasting the time of FEMA officials, just so he can make some sort of campaign point, say he's been briefed, and look "presidential"?
Why would they want to waste time with HIM?? They've got more important things to do right now than waste time talking to some guy who is trying to leverage a campaign clip out of them, especially after he said he wants to pull all their funding. He's a shameless opportunist and is desperately trying to appear "presidential" when in fact he is completely irrelevant to this whole crisis and should just get the f out of the way. He does more harm than good by interfering and distracting. What a loser.
Did Mitt tell FEMA they were no longer needed. FEMA you are fired! Per "Mitt Romney"
Why is Romney bothering FEMA officials that have more crucial things to do than to make Romney look like he is somehow involved in this. Romney holds no post in the government and has nothing to do with the government's current emergency assistance for Sandy victims. Romney is using FEMA as a campaign tool at the expense of it's employees who need to spend their time assisting with the storm instead of talking on Romney's big conference call.
Mitt Romney "I will do or say any thing to get elected"
What was Romney doing wasting 20 minutes of FEMA's time? Trying to appear "presidential"? Guess what, guy....you're not president yet. Stopping wasting grown-ups' time and get back to what you're best at...flip flopping like a walrus and lying your face off. God help us if this greasy car salesman wins the Oval Office.
I'm sick of Romney's gigantic ego trying to make a real story about him. He plays no role in this and he can't stand it. He's not the President and G_d willing he never will be. GO VOTE!
Romney speaking to FEMA...there he goes, faking it again!
I Didn't realize we had a new president! Why is CNN reporting about this silly try of looking 'presidential' from Romney and not on how our real President is handling professionally the situation is beyond me! Also, I greatly distrust men that say I love you too much like this guy is doing with American people... Usually it's a lie!
This coming from a guy who during the primaries promised to dismantle FEMA.
The hypocrisy is ridiculous.
This dude is a serious flip flopper!! Seriously!!
@RobK – I don't think you understand what FEMA and state EM agencies do. It's not at all just about money, nor is funding oversight what would be needed to move the job downline to states. I've worked for my state's EM agency. I do NOT want them trying to do FEMA's job. They aren't qualified, and it goes far beyond funding. FEMA is a national agency for a reason! They may not be the best they can, but they beat what would happen without them....
what a jerk. Now he's talking to FEMA. Last week he said FEMA is immoral and disasters should be dealt with by the states and private contributions. What an A**Hole !
Unless he offered to help with the response and was approved to play a role in the response by President Obama, he is just wasting valuable time. He is not a government official and has no business being involved in this unless A. He offered his help and was approved to play a government role or B. He was asked to help by Obama himself. It appears to me that he is just taking advantage of a photo op but providing nothing vital to the operation.
The flip and flop sounds from the Romney camp are being drowned out now by the sounds of back-pedaling.
How crass! At a time when the nation is grieving the lost of life and property, he is out wooing voters ,and trying to make an impression. That speaks to his character.
Way to phone it in. I'm sure that the view is nice from Iowa. Why isn't he in any of his "home" states, like MA or NH. At least the president is in DC where he can do some good.