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.
WHy isn't the headline about what the president of the United States is doing for this emergency, not about some wannabe who is using it for political gain, i.e. Romney?
Nice of Romney to pretend he's Prez. for a day. Isn't that special.
Question: What was FEMA doing wasting their time talking to Romney? Romney should sit down and let public officials do their job in this time of need. Stop treating tragedies like opportunities.
I'll bet he got a really warm reception from the agency he intends to defund if elected.
Why was Romney able to talk to FEMA?? He has zero power at this moment.
Mr flip flop the Romney now think FEMA is relevant.. Shame on you
One President at a time.
Why is FEMA having to waste precious time and resources talking to Mr. Romney? If there is any, any time to give for anyone with FEMA let them eat, rest and think.
Doesn't Mitt want to get rid of FEMA? What was he telling them? "By the way, when I get in office, you guys will have to look for a job." Way to bring down the unemployment numbers.
He speaks to the agency he wants to privatize....
What a hypocrite. If he is elected President I believe he would shut this need program down. Hopefully 1 more week of watching this man lie.
Hoo boy. Another strange 'clarification' after saying he would take 500 million away from FEMA.
Romney spoke to FEMA and the National Weather Service? What in the world did he contribute to the situation other than take up the officials valuable time they could have spent on the emergency?
Why has Romney refused to do any live interviews while Obama has done many interviews recently?......because Romney is a coward, and he knows he has lied and flipped flopped on so many topics that if he does a live interview that is unscripted he could be exposed for his various lies and changing positions....and this is the man the GOP want running for Pres unbelievable that people even consider this man as a candidate!!!! Wake Up America He will Kill the middle class!
Didn't Romney suggest that FEMA should no longer exist? That the federal government should not be in the business of helping the states. That each state should help itself. What a hypocrite.
It sounds to me like Romney wants to push for states handling natural disasters the way they already handle national disasters and the federal government's relief to be privatized, much like the privatization some aspects of war that went on under Bush Cheney and Rumsfeld. Yet again the candidate shows himself to be little more than a Dubya redux.
It's a good thing ol' Mittsy KNOWS who the 47% are who haven't prepared and who need to be taken care of by the government, huh?
CNN missed the boat on this report. At that debate, Romney came right out and said that it was "IMMORAL" for the Federal Government to be in charge of emergency management.
Why is Romney taking up FEMA's time? Now is not the time for photo-ops. He is not the head of any state government. He is not part of the federal government. There is nothing he can do in the aftermath of this storm except get in the way. And let's not forget that, during a similar event during a Romney administration, he wouldn't be speaking to FEMA because he would have cut it ...
This is just a desperate attempt by Romney to try to stay in the news.
Romney is a private citizen. He has no reason or right to be wasting FEMAs time. Except to foreard his dishonest campaign. (Hey- you talk to the guys @ Jeep lately?)
Our president is handling things just fine. We don't need you sticking your nose in. Go back to your lying-that's what you do best!!
So now that a super storm is destroying the East Coast, suddenly this man find FEMA important!! In June he said he wanted to gut this too, that it was immoral... what is immoras is this man. He is dangerous!!!
Romney is using this disaster as a campaign strategy...."using our victory centers to collect money and donations"...loading donations on campaign buses....meeting with FEMA, why? to pick their operation to find something to use against President Obama...taking donations to swing states affected by this storm....people are not stupid.....he is a lousy sneak.
When Romney originally said he "favored states taking on a large role in disaster relief" he clearly meant he favored the states picking up the tab (as evidenced from the rest of his original statement. Now he does his etch-a-sketch flip flop and tweaks his words carefully for only political gain saying "states should be in charge". Make no doubt, he believes in block granting to the states which for many would be a sever cut or limit/cap in federal disaster aid. Even Paul Ryan passed severe cuts to FEMA in his budget. These guys are both liars and cannot be trusted.
What a joke..
This is the guy that thinks this program needs to be cut..
He is unbelievable.. With his false concern and compassion...
Its just insane to think a state can handle the costs of something like a natural disaster alone..
It takes us all pulling together.. A fund set up for such things..
Not the state struggling with it alone, or charities .. The cost is staggering and not to mention the turmoil a disaster creates and he personal costs..
When disaster strikes they pull together each helping out..
Because it takes everyone pitching in.. And for disasters such as these that means tax money from all of us..
A little from all , mean a lot can be done.
Not Romenys plan.. it stinks.
Why in the world would you want to speak to them, you have said close FEMA, you are a fake and a liar, along with your little sidekick ryan.