(CNN) – With a week to go until Election Day and a day after superstorm Sandy slammed the East Coast, Republican nominee Mitt Romney swapped campaign rallies for a relief event in the all-important battleground state of Ohio Tuesday.
"We have heavy hearts as you know with all the suffering going on in a major part of our country. A lot of people are hurting this morning," said Romney, adding that he had the chance to speak with some of the governors from the affected areas.
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The storm had killed 29 in the United States with a total of 97 deaths overall, including 67 in the Caribbean, as of Tuesday.
The former Massachusetts governor thanked supporters for their generosity and equated the Ohio crowd's relief effort to those of citizens of his home state in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
After addressing the crowd briefly, the GOP nominee hopped off a makeshift stage to glad-hand with supporters and collect items as they filed past to donate relief goods like bottled water, canned foods and fleece blankets.
Romney's campaign told reporters that a Red Cross warehouse in New Jersey was accepting the donation, and distributed a statement they attributed to the Red Cross.
"The American Red Cross appreciates the support from the Romney campaign and is working with the campaign to process this donation of supplies," the statement read. "We are grateful that both the Obama and Romney campaigns have also encouraged the public to send financial donations to the Red Cross. We encourage individuals who want to help to consider making a financial donation or making an appointment to give blood."
He did not answer questions from reporters on whether he would eliminate the Federal Emergency Management Agency as president - a topic the storm brought back into the political spotlight from the Republican primaries when Romney said he favored states taking a larger role in disaster relief.
Meanwhile, running mate Rep. Paul Ryan will stop by campaign offices in his home state of Wisconsin Tuesday to thank volunteers and collect items for storm relief efforts.
President Barack Obama's campaign cancelled events for Monday and Tuesday, flying back to Washington, D.C. to monitor the storm, as well as campaign events for Wednesday in Ohio.
–CNN's Rachel Streitfeld, Dana Davidsen and Ashley Killough contributed to this report.