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.
Meet with FEMA, for what??? Romney has no executive power and holds no public office. POINTLESS...
Sandy didn't really happen. The entire republican party rejects global warming and climate change. And note Romney asked for other peoples' donations for the victims, not tax-payer dollars or insurance companies' speedy relief. Romney put his "charity" tax deductible money into building more mormon temples, not helping the American people who can't avoid natural diaster..
Mitt is on the phone with FEMA to tell them that they are all fired and a Chinese company will now take over.
Why did he speak to them? To let them know he's getting rid of FEMA if elected? "It should be left up the states" What a joke!
Why would a CANDIDATE be allowed to take part in a conference call regarding a crisis, when he has no power, no authority and wants to de-fund the agency in the first place?
He needs to keep his distance. If he gets elected, then yeah, keep him in the loop, until then...he needs to keep his nose out of the president's business.
Romney has no business interjecting himself in Fema at this time; he does not need to be kept in any loop, he does not need to be kept up-dated. He has no authority and this event is a purely political photo-op. Should he (God forbid) be elected, his watch would begin in January – when he would be free to dismantle FEMA....as he has publicly stated he would.
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Romney talks to FEMA to let them know he will dismantle them?! Or was he just grandstanding and wasting FEMA's time?
He probably asking FEMA if the storm hit any of his OFFSHORE accounts....
The Fema he said we don't need? That Fema? Romney is such an opportunist.
As a taxpayer, I am beyond furious that Mitt Romney is taking the valuable time of FEMA personnel with more important things to do than provide Romney with some kind of meaningless political grandstanding opportunity.
If anyone wants to see someone looking presidential, check out Barack Obama: he is acting presidential, which is much more important.
I can't believe anyone wants to vote for Romney.
I am not surprised MR is trying to turn this storm into a political positive. FEMA should have declined to accept his call.
If MR wins the election there will be no FEMA and probably no DHS either.
He has no power . He should mind his own business and go count his money
Lol! What a flip flopper! Just like a fish outta water!
Just heard about an hour ago that Romney called the Republican governors of the affected states, but did not call the Democratic governors. This is an example of how he would govern. Take care of 53% of the population, and then only the Republican ones. I guess if you are in a red state, that would work for you.
I wonder what the republican governors of coastal states really have to say about dissolving FEMA. Disasters like this could potentially bankrupt them if they were on their own. We ( all 50 states) are in this together are we not?
in his mind he is the POTUS, scary thought for those of us that are mentally sane
Gutting FEMA is like saying that all the politicians that came before were idiots for creating it, that it was entirely unnecessary, and that history is not worth any attention. If these government programs are broken, then fix what's broken but don't undermine the things that keep the country going. The plutocrats running the show are basically saying to the citizens "screw you, I got mine".
Romney: "Let FEMA go Bankrupt"... Doesn't everybody know by now that Climate Change and Global Warming is just a big myth? Hurricane Sandy is just another big storm and that's the new "Norm." The residents of New Jersey to Ohio are going to receive "Vouchers" from Paul Ryan to the Northern East States to cover their losses and clean up the aftermath... Trust me.
Someone explain to me why FEMA is even talking to Mitt Romney? He's not the President, and he's not even a governor anymore. He's been elected to nothing. If I was the FEMA director, I wouldn't even take his call.
Romny is allowed to talk to FEMA as he is a candidate for POTUS. There is nothing strange here. He also gets security briefing regularly.
Leave politics for a minute.
News flash: shameless candidate uses devastating storm as campaign pop, but does nothing of value to help those in need.
Transcript from 20 minute phone call with FEMA:
Romney: Hi FEMA!
FEMA: Didn't you publicly announce you wanted to shut us down? Why are you on this call? Shut up and let us get on with the job of helping people
Romney: (19 minutes of silence)
Take care of 53% of the population, and then only the Republican ones. I guess if you are in a red state, that would work for you.
Considering how partisan are the Democrat governors .. maybe they didn't want to answer his call. How do you know? It's like you guys making noise about "Why was he briefed by FEMA? Who does he think he is? This was the President show!"
And yes, it's not bad living in a red state. Less crazy people around you.