LOUISIANA – President Barack Obama was today forced to announce he will fly to storm-hit Louisiana on Monday – hours after Mitt Romney beat him to the punch by deciding to head there this afternoon.
After it emerged that Obama was still taking time to fit in a campaign stop in Cleveland, Ohio before checking out how clean-up operations are proceeding in the Bayou state, the Obama campaign abruptly cancelled that event.
‘In light of the President’s travel to Louisiana to meet with local officials and view ongoing response and recovery efforts to Hurricane Isaac, President Obama will no longer travel to Cleveland, Ohio on Monday, September 3,’ the campaign said in a terse statement.
Romney had changed his schedule to head to an affected town outside New Orleans while Obama, who has yet to visit the Tropical Storm Isaac zone, headed off to Texas to campaign.
Seven years ago, President George W. Bush was lambasted for inaction and incompetence in dealing with Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and much of the Mississippi and Louisiana gulf coast.
Romney’s last-minute trip to New Orleans came as his wife Ann told CNN that swing women voters in particular had told her that ‘it’s time for the grown-up to come, the man that’s going to take this very seriously and the future of our children very, very seriously’.
He opted out of a joint campaign appearance in Richmond, Virginia with Paul Ryan, his vice-presidential running mate, to head to Louisiana.
The first day of the Republican convention in Tampa was cancelled as Isaac bore down on Florida and the Gulf of Mexico area.
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Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, who was on Romney’s vice-presidential shortlist, abandoned his convention speech to oversee storm relief.
A Romney aide told ABC News that Romney would ‘join Governor Jindal and will meet with first responders, thank them for their work and see areas impacted by the storm’ in LaFitte, Louisiana, some 20 miles south of New Orleans.
The trip to Louisiana was sandwiched between previously announced campaign stops in Lakeland, Florida, where he will be joined by Paul Ryan, and Cincinnati.
On a visit to Indianapolis on Wednesday to speak at the American Legion convention, Romney joked about the storm before expressing his concern.
‘I appreciate this invitation to join you on dry land this afternoon,’ he said to laughter. ‘Our thoughts are, of course, with the people of the Gulf Coast states.
‘We’re grateful that it appears Isaac will spare them from the kind of damage we saw during Katrina, but for many in the Gulf Coast who just finished repairing their homes and are getting a life back to normal, this must be a heavy burden.
‘So today our thoughts are with them, our prayers go out to them, and our country must do all we can to help them recover.’
In Lafitte, emergency crews were assisting victims of Hurricane Isaac, which hit the coast with wind speeds of 80mph on Tuesday and brought flooding to the area before it was downgraded to a tropical storm.
The storm, which is lumbering north at a pace of just 5mph, has claimed four lives in Mississippi and Louisiana, ravaged homes with as many as 18 inches of flood water, and left more than 900,000 people without power.