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Romney meets with Colorado wildfire victims, helps volunteers

July 10, 2012|By Maeve Reston
  • Mitt Romney helps food bank volunteers pack supplies for firefighters and families affected by Colorado's wildfires.
Mitt Romney helps food bank volunteers pack supplies for firefighters… (Maeve Reston / Los Angeles…)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Mitt Romney met privately with people displaced by the fires that have ravaged this state in recent weeks, and helped food bank volunteers pack supplies like applesauce, macaroni and cheese, and ramen noodles for firefighters and families affected by the disaster.

The Romney campaign did not allow reporters to listen to his conversations Tuesday with displaced families and at least one business owner who had lost his shop, but after hearing their stories, the presumed Republican nominee made a plea to Americans to visit Colorado (a message that had been conveyed by one of the victims).

“We’ve all watched what’s happened here with horror as we’ve seen the flames and the homes lost and the stories of the loss of life,” Romney told reporters during a brief statement in the warehouse of the Care and Share food bank in Colorado Springs.

But he noted that only a portion of the state had been affected and urged Americans to help boost the state’s economy by visiting.

“Right here in Colorado Springs, a very small amount of the area has been affected by the fire; it’s devastating to the people who have been affected. But the great majority of the forest here, and the lakes and the beauty of this area, remains exactly as it was before. People are staying away because they think the whole area has been burned out — it’s not,” Romney said.

“Tourists need to come back,” he added. “Come visit; come on vacation this summer. … We need you here.”

Though Romney did not mention any specific policy actions by the federal or state government, he said if was elected he would try to “help do a better job” and “learn from the lessons of the tragedies here.”

“The most important lesson is one we can all be inspired by,” he said, “and that is the willingness of one person to help another person to make a difference in solving challenges of their life at a time like this.”

Romney’s campaign aides, working in conjunction with the Republican National Committee, have volunteered for fire relief efforts in recent weeks. Romney, who had previously urged Americans to donate to the American Red Cross on his Facebook page, made an anonymous donation to the Red Cross, but the campaign would not disclose the amount.

Though Romney did not make any political statements at the food bank, his campaign is making a sustained effort in the swing state of Colorado.

Earlier in the day, Romney held a town-hall-style meeting with voters in Mesa County, where unemployment is 9% (higher than the 8.1% rate statewide in May). The area is Republican country: Nearly half of Mesa County’s active registered voters are Republican; 29% are not affiliated with either party.

In Grand Junction, Romney noted that Colorado could well decide the presidential election this fall. Recent polls show the contest here between Romney and President Obama is within the margin of error.

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maeve.reston@latimes.com

Twitter: @maevereston

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