AVON LAKE, OH — Hurricane Sandy's impact spread from the East Coast to Ohio this morning, where Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's campaign announced it was scrapping planned events across the Midwest, while the candidate himself called upon supporters to donate to relief agencies and send prayers to those in the storm's path.
"On the Eastern Coast of our nation, a lot of people are enduring some very difficult times. Our hearts and our prayers go to them as we think about how tough it's going to be there," Romney told an audience of some 2,500 supporters in a high school gym this morning. "I'd like to ask those of you that are here today to think about making a contribution to the Red Cross or another relief agency, to be of help if you can in any way you can imagine to help those who are in harm's way."
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Romney, whose campaign has suspended fundraising appeals in the afflicted states, also asked his supporters to donate to relief organizations, either through the campaign's infrastructure, or on their own.
"I know our victory centers are making collections of items and cash that we can send along to the Red Cross," Romney said, echoing an email sent by his campaign this morning. "But whether you come to our victory center or just do it with your email, your internet account, do your very best to help."
Mitt Romney campaigns in the critical battleground state of Ohio as a poll shows a dead heat between the governor and President Obama. Watch the entire speech.
"We're counting on Ohio," Romney continued. "I know the people of the Atlantic Coast are counting on Ohio and the rest of our states, but I also think the people of the entire nation are counting on Ohio because my guess is, my guess is if Ohio votes me in as President, I'll be the next president of the United States."
Romney's remarks on the storm came at the end of his stump speech here this morning, and are indicative of the delicate balance the GOP challenger must maintain between keeping up a campaign predicated in no small part on criticizing the record of President Barack Obama, and not looking opportunistic or unconcerned about the impact of a potentially devastating weather event affecting a large portion of the country.
Absent from Romney's remarks this morning was his now traditional attack on Obama for running a "small" campaign, focusing instead primarily on his own day-one agenda and five-point plan, along with a promise to work across the aisle should he be elected.
"I am going to reach across the aisle and work with Democrats. I’m going to find common ground. We have to find a way to work with people in the opposition party," Romney said. "Democrats love America. Republicans love America. We can come together."
As Romney spoke, his campaign announced it was canceling a planned event tonight in Wisconsin, and tomorrow's scheduled events in Ohio and Iowa. The campaign also cancelled events in Florida for Romney's running mate Paul Ryan, and said the campaign schedule remains in flux.