KENNER, La – Mitt Romney traveled today in the storm-ravaged state of Louisiana, meeting with Gov. Bobby Jindal and surveying damage caused by Hurricane Isaac.
“I’m here to learn and obviously to draw some attention to what’s going here,” Romney told Jindal. “So that people around the country know that people down here need help.”
Romney, staff members, the National Guard and a small group of press traveled in high water vehicles through flooded regions in Jefferson Parish, one of the hardest hit areas by Hurricane Isaac, passing submerged gas stations and flooded homes. The motorcade passed a sign on a home that read, “Where is our levee protection,” as well as people who watched Romney pass from small boats in the floodwaters that would usually be front lawns.
Romney asked Jindal about the number of people in shelters as well as where the bulk of the water was coming from – rivers, the sky or tidal surges – but their conversation took place out of earshot of reporters.
Then Romney spent 45-minutes in a closed-door meeting with Jindal, Sen. David Vitter and other local officials before emerging and meeting with several women who were standing in a parking lot barefoot in t-shirts and shorts.
Jodie Chiarello, 42 of Jean Lafitte, was one of the women who spoke with Romney and said she had told him, “I lost everything.”
“He said that he was going to do the best that he could for us.” Chiarello, a Republican who declined to say who she was voting for, said she was pleased Romney visited to be “supportive.”
“He’s good, he’ll do the best for us, he has our best interests at heart,” she said of the candidate, adding that he was different than she’d expected.
“I thought he’d be more like a politician, but it was more understanding and caring,” she said. “He was caring.”
Romney told the women that FEMA could point them in the direction of shelters.
During a September debate, Romney was asked what he thought should be done with FEMA, which has come under funding issues in the past year. Asked if he agreed with those who say states should take on more of role in federal disaster relief, Romney said, “Absolutely.”
“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. “And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector that’s even better. Instead of thinking in the federal budget what we should cut, we should ask ourselves the opposite question, what should we keep. We should take all of what we are doing at the federal level and say what are things we are doing that we don’t have to do, and those things we’ve gotta stop doing.”
Romney, who announced his visit to the region earlier today, has been weighing a trip here all week. President Obama announced later this afternoon that he will travel to Louisiana on Monday.
Asked whether he thought it was inappropriate for Romney to have visited the region before the President, Romney senior adviser Stuart Stevens said he did not.
“I’ve never heard that being a factor in this at all. The convention’s over, this is happening. Now it’s not as disruptive because it’s not in the middle of the storm. And it’s important to see it and show support for the people. Get a briefing from the Governor,” said Stevens. “I think that it helps draw attention to these people, and their plight , and the situation, it’s a way for him to brief governor Romney and I think it’s going to take an hour and a half.”
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, asked earlier what a private citizen like Romney can accomplish on a visit like the one he made today, said that “it’s always important to draw attention to the fact that individuals and families and business owners are profoundly affected by storms like Isaac, and that’s an important thing to do.”