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Pausing the political, Romney holds relief event for storm victims

Emmanuel Dunand / AFP - Getty Images

Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney talks to supporters calling for donations during a storm relief campaign event to help people who suffered from hurricane Sandy, in Kettering, Ohio, on Oct. 30, 2012.


KETTERING, OH — Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney collected donated supplies for hurricane victims on the East Coast on Tuesday, while urging supporters to give money to the Red Cross at a hastily arranged "relief event" in Ohio.

"Thank you for your help and your generosity," Romney told supporters, as he stood on a table surrounded by donated goods, at the location of a planned campaign rally this morning. "If you have a little extra, if you have more canned goods, bring them along to our victory centers that are open.  But also if you can write a check to American Red Cross that's welcome as well.  We're looking for all the help we can get for all the families in need."

Romney had been scheduled to hold a full-fledged campaign rally in this same building until late yesterday, when the campaign said it was scrapping Romney's political calendar as Hurricane Sandy approached the East Coast. Monday night, the campaign announced this morning's event was back on, but the focus would be storm relief — with Romney making no formal remarks, and no political agenda attached.

Attendees were asked by the campaign to bring donations of non-perishable goods, which are to be trucked to a Red Cross office in Sewell, NJ — or to give to the red cross directly.

Gov. Mitt Romney attended a storm relief event in Ohio, urging supporters to "make the difference in the life of one or two people" by donating goods to benefit the victims of Superstorm Sandy.

Romney's remarks were indeed without a political focus, with no direct mention of the election now just one week away, or of President Barack Obama or any specific campaign issue. After speaking and packing boxes, Romney and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman helped load the donated supplies into a truck for shipment, ignoring questions about whether he planned to tour storm damaged areas, and on his views of the future of FEMA.

Despite effort to the contrary, no political event can be entirely apolitical in late October of an election year, and some trappings of a rally remained here. Romney's long biographical video played once, well before Romney arrived at the venue, and outside the arena vendors sold buttons and hats to attendees as they left. 

Mandy Hess, an administrative assistant at a medical office in Kettering who attended the event with her teenage son, said she wasn't bothered by the hint of politics mixed in with the relief effort.

"It's letting you know who he is as a person and what his roots are, and that people and family are what's important to him so I think that ties into the relief effort," Hess said. 

The GOP nominee himself kept his focus on the storm victims, and tried to strike an uplifting tone, telling supporters that their effort, however small in the grand scheme of things, would matter.

"I know that one of the things I've learned in life is you make the difference you can," Romney said.  "And you can't always solve all the problems yourself, but you can make the difference in the life of one or two people as a result of one or two people making an effort." 

The campaign resumes in full force Wednesday, with Romney planning three rallies in Florida, while his vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan hits the trail in Wisconsin.