Brian Snyder / REUTERS
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, left, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, center, talk with people at an ice and water distribution point while touring damage from Hurricane Isaac in Jean Lafitte, La., on Friday.
KENNER, La. -- With the formal nominating process of the Republican convention behind him, Mitt Romney stepped off the campaign trail for several hours Friday afternoon to tour storm-damaged neighborhoods and meet with local officials in hurricane-battered southern Louisiana.
On Friday morning, the Romney campaign scrapped plans for an afternoon Romney-Ryan rally in Virginia, sending Ryan alone after an event in Florida and diverting Romney, on his new campaign plane, to Jefferson Parish, south of New Orleans.
On the ground, Romney met with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Sen. David Vitter, both Republicans, to tour the area, which was hit hard this week by Hurricane Isaac, and to meet with first responders.
"You and I have talked several times. You said you wanted to support the folks, wanted to make sure they had everything they needed," Jindal told Romney when the group convened along the highway. "Appreciate you being here."
Romney said the visit, which lasted several hours, was meant as an opportunity to hear from residents and to bring attention to their plight, and his campaign said Romney attempted to cause minimal disruption to the recovery effort here.
“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 spoke with a handful of residents here in this heavily Republican state, which isn’t expected to be competitive in November.
“I thought he’d be more like a politician, but it was more understanding and caring,” 42-year old Jodie Chiarello, who spoke with Romney outside the post office in Jean Lafitte post office said. “He was caring,” she said, adding that she would “probably” vote for him.
A senior Romney campaign adviser said the campaign did not take into account when President Barack Obama might visit the New Orleans area, saying the trip was not meant as a political exercise and dismissing any suggestion that visiting before the president would be inappropriate.
"There have been concerns about being disruptive of the recovery. I mean I think that is why we are going with a smaller group now and why we [are] deferring to the governors," strategist Stuart Stevens told reporters, who were split into a smaller pool to keep the traveling group small. "I'm sure that’s a consideration. You don't want to disrupt things."
After the Romney campaign announced the trip, the White House advised reporters that the president would cancel a campaign event and travel here on Monday.