Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney laughs as he returns to the… (Erik S. Lesser / EPA )
LAKELAND, Fla. — Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan parted ways after a final sendoff rally Friday morning — abandoning plans to spend the day campaigning together so that Romney could join Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal for a tour of an area damaged by Hurricane Isaac.
Ryan broached the subject during the rally outside a Lakeland airplane hangar, pausing for a moment of prayer for the hurricane victims as well as those affected by the magnitude 7.6 earthquake off the eastern coast of the Philippines.
“Let’s put the people of the Philippines in our prayers at this moment because we’re worried about a tsunami,” the GOP vice presidential candidate said. “We’ve seen people in our own country in the path of the storm in Louisiana, so let’s just put our prayers where they need to be for the people of the Philippines and the people who are in the path of Isaac’s wake.”
Romney is expected to talk about the impact of Hurricane Isaac later Friday during an interview with "NBC Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams, who is anchoring a special broadcast from Louisiana’s Plaquemines Parish. Isaac has weakened to a tropical depression, but it is expected to bring rain — and the possibility of flash flooding — to Arkansas and Missouri.
Hundreds of thousands of Gulf residents are out of power and there are four deaths in the U.S. attributed to the storm.
The White House announced that President Obama would fly to Louisiana on Monday to view the damage, a late addition to his schedule that was announced a few hours after the Romney campaign revealed its plans.
Though the rivals were clearly jockeying to show who would be more responsive and more presidential in moments of crisis, both are also trying to avoid the sort of criticism that President George W. Bush faced in 2005 when he viewed areas damaged by Hurricane Katrina during a fly-over on Air Force One. Romney is visiting Lafitte, a hard-hit area, at Jindal’s invitation.
During their morning remarks, Romney and Ryan did not dwell on the storm — instead returning to their critique of Obama’s economic record: “Measure us. Hold us accountable. Do the same with the president,” Romney told the crowd. “You’re making a choice as to who the servant will be of the nation.”
The Republican presidential nominee asked voters in the crowd to “do the work on November 6th that gets me elected the next president of the United States.”
“That has to happen here in Florida,” Romney said. “For that to happen, you’re going to have to go out and find a person or two who voted for Barack Obama. I know they’re here. They’re not as visible as they used to be. You can see some of the glue on the back of their bumper sticker where it used to be, and so you can find them. But you find them and convince them to get on our team and to help us because we want to be held accountable for the promises we made last night and the night before.”
In a lighter moment, Romney complimented the convention speech of his wife Ann, who spoke briefly at the beginning of Friday’s rally.
“One of the speeches I’ll never forget, and that was by my lady in red back there,” he said gesturing to his wife as the crowd cheered. “I mentioned in my remarks last night that one of the things I wished I could do would be to wake up with a pile of kids on my floor in the morning and go to bed at night with our kids coming in and talking to us about their problems — five little boys doing that — and I get back to my hotel room [last night] and my daughter-in-law Jen said, ‘We can arrange that, you know.’”
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