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.
Romney and his party are not FEMA supporters until the public sees how effective FEMA is and they are forced to make a lukewarm mention of them to avoid revealing their real position of de-funding them.
He's got a lot of nerve – talking with FEMA officials and wasting their time, after what he said about them earlier in his campaign. This man should never be allowed anywhere near the White House.
Early Romney mentioned that he wanted to eliminate FEMA completely, now they are BBF's.
What a helmet!
Why is he bothering with them? They're "costing taxpayers money!" He would get rid of FEMA. Thanks a lot.
What good does Romney calling FEMA do? It's not like he is in a position of authority. He has no ability to currently influence policy. All he could do is offer the nearly $145 million he has in his campaign account or a portion of his $250 million in personal wealth. Since I am sure that he made neither offer, Romney's call did nothing but to distract FEMA officials from their operations.
What'd he do? Share with them how he's going to defund them on Day One?
When Romney was Governor of MASS, he made FEMA, the Federal Government pay for 2 diasters he had in the state. He refused to use state funds for diasters, now he has flipped and wants the states to handle and pay for diasters. Just another flipflop for Romeny. And then he has a meeting with FEMA this afternoon, getting advise from them Romney, a guy who justs want votes in any way he can get them. No real map or specifics on how he would resolve national, economical or help make more job. Vote for Obama and get the real man and policies, as Romney has none YET.
Romeny has said during the campaign that he would abolish FEMA! Do you people voting for him understand what you would get? Basically an empty sui. You can't belive in his word!
The chances that this storm is used for political gain by both parties is about 99.99999999999%
Sticking his nose where it doesn't belong.....
CNN left out the part where Romney saying FEMA was "immoral". Romney is immoral and now wants people to donate canned goods... yeah-here is a can of beans ,but good luck with your flooded home or business.
Romney is a clueless rich snob-who loves to lie
Why is he talking to FEMA when he says they're "immoral"? Anything for a vote. A very sad, evil man.
Why is Romney speaking to FEMA?! Do they have time right now, to talk to a former governor who currently holds no government office whatsoever?
Does FEMA have some sort of statutory responsibility to help make political candidates look good during a disaster?
What did Mitt tell them? How he'd defund them on day one?
Has this guy no shame, or is he so ambitious he thinks he is president already? Next think he will be calling the JCS and directing troops into Syria. He should not be calling or talking to FEMA, that is President Obama's job. Just another exanple of Romney's poor judgement. He should limit himself to expressions of sympathy, or if he wants to donate $100M of his private fortune to help relief, thats OK too.
Shame! We can only have one president at a time.
How about let them do their jobs, instead of distracting them for your campaign op? Not to mention your plan to shut them down on Day 1 of a Romney administration...inflated government and all.
Romney met with FEMA and told them he wants to do a LBO and take them private. Oh wait ....
Romney told those affected by the storm to rebuild their homes. He said, 'Just borrow money from your parents".
Romney's just collecting names so he knows to who to call to do his dirty work when he decides it's time to start passing out those pink slips on "Day One".
Amazing that this man has a real chance to become our next president. what will he do and say once in office? I doubt that he even knows
Mitt the "pretender in chief" needs to let the real president do his job right now. Not everything is a photo opt. PS we have not forgotten that you want to de-fund FEMA (your words not mine)
What is romney doing, sticking his nose in something that it does not belong? Stay out of it and let thse people do their work.
Thank GOD, Romney isn't President during this!
My God, Mittwitt has to cover his a s s after EVERYTHING he says. He wants to cut FEMA and make the states responsible for their own emergencies. Well Governor, the states have always been the first responders in situations like Hurricane Sandy. By cutting FEMA you are pushing EVEN MORE responsibility to the states thereby putting them at risk of financial collapse which could mean higher state taxes for everyone. So what about NO NEW TAXES?
Mittwitt's ideas seem to be made up by a fifth grader. How can anyone take this man as a serious presidential candidate?
FEMA is too damn busy with Sandy to waste time on a stupid political stunt with a candidate that wanted to eliminate FEMA. Absolutely no class and shameless.