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.
If FEMA is privatized, where does the money come from? What a crazy solution from Romney.
Why...is Romney backtracking and apologizing to FEMA for stating earlier this year that it is "immoral" to fund their agency?
What a joke!!!!!! Romney wants to get rid of FEMA. Another lie.... How many more lies are in this guys head.....
I would hate to think this guy would lead the USA.....All of our allies could not possibly wonder if this guy is telling the truth or lying to them. VERY SCARY
Obama/Biden-all the way
Beyond ridiculous. He has no power to do anything.
Flip flopped again.
Why would they speak with him? He thinks they are not necessary.
Mitt Romney speaking with FEMA is like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock sitting down with Planned Parenthood
Why does Romney need to talk to FEMA? Can I talk to FEMA too, because Romney has just as much authority as me regarding natural disasters....NONE!!! He needs to respectful and allow the authorized authorities do their job and that currently doesn't include him.
Mitt, the draft dodger, Romney, is toast.
Is this man for real! Give me a break Romney is no more presidential material than the man in the moon.
Fir a man to diss FEMA in one of his debates, and have to have his campaign, once again, correct Romney and now say he would support FEMA ... And ... Now he is trying sooooo very hard to call FEMA to show he is supporting them... Well...this man is just plain stupid. Romney is the biggest hypocrite we have ever seen on a campaign trail!! Who does he think he is talking to? His subordinates? Certainly not the American people We have his number,, and it ain't good for the ol' draft dodger.
Please,please make this dork just go away!
Mitt Romney is a failed political candidate
waaaaaaaiiiiit... he said he wanted to get rid of FEMA.
All I can say is that he is a flip flopper
Seriously...Romney does not need to meet with FEMA, we have a President. He should go home and figure out which water borders Iran!
Why is Mitt Romney talking to FEMA, can I talk to FEMA too? He has just as much authority regarding natural disaster relief as me....NONE!!!! He needs to step back and be respectful and allow the authorized authorities handle this situation.
What a bunch of clowns the Romney and his campaign stooges are. Trying to sound authoritative but just saying a lot of nothing.
umm....why is citizen romney speaking with fema? the mayor of a small town has more right than he does at the moment.
Interesting that he is interested in interacting with the organization given he wants to significantly downsize their role and dump the responsibility on the states as if natural disasters stop at state lines.
1) Romney made it clear, before he 'became' a moderate, that he was going to abolish FEMA as POTUS. Now, after his etch-a-sketch debate, he is in favor of FEMA funding.
2) Why does Romney feel the need to discuss the situation with FEMA anyways? It isn't as if he is POTUS yet. One at a time, Romney, one at a time. Hopefully the one we have is the one we will have for 4 more years.
Seriously, Romney? During the debates you said you wanted to get rid of FEMA. Now you're positioning yourself with them just to make yourself look good.
Why are federal agencies briefing Romney?
Wonder if he mentioned how much he wants to cut FEMA's budget.
I am truly shocked! Why is Romney speaking to FEMA – he is not the President nor governor of any state and has no official capacity. This is a disgusting display of playing politics to "look presidential" and taking the valuable time of FEMA employees and other officials who have plenty of real work to do at this time. Why are they spending time with Romney? I can't believe anyone at FEMA took time to speak to a Presidential candidate who has no official capacity!
Thank God Romney took up some of the time of the National Weather Service and FEMA; his opinion and input is so needed during this crisis.
Did he tell them he is going to outsource their jobs?
Why on earth would Romney be allowed on that call? He has no official capacity whatsoever. Did he remember to mention he wants to privatize FEMA, that he considers their work "immoral". Or has he flipped position since last week?
Mitt Romney should start acclimating himself to the office he's about to win, so these types of meetings are great from a committment standpoint on his part. President Romney...it has a nice ring to it!