Our of respect for the Americans put in harm's way by Hurricane Sandy, Mitt Romney's campaign events have been turned into "storm relief events." The campaign set up folding tables to collect donated canned food and supplies on one side of a rally event in Kettering, Ohio on Tuesday. Romney told the crowd that his campaign has identified a place in New Jersey that will take the donations, and the campaign will send donated goods there. He told the story of a high school football game and how after the game was over the field was "filled with all sorts of rubbish and paper goods." They didn't know how they'd clean it all up, until someone gave everyone a "lane" within the yard lines. "So we're cleaning in our lane, if you will," Romney said, by donating these goods. After brief remarks, Romney left the crowd to enjoy a concert. The relief table wasn't very busy, as you can see at right, but supporters probably had short notice to bring stuff to donate.
Still, the campaign wasn't able to get rid of all the normal campaign stuff. The event began with Romney's normal warmup songs. Then the crowd saw his normal warmup video, a biographical video about his record as a problem solver. A sign warned the arena would be closed for "the Republican campaign rally." But the event had a roped-off area for relief supplies, and a sign urged supporters to donate to the Red Cross.
Why did Romney do this charity-campaign hybrid? "A campaign aide said there was fear that the media would look for ways to criticize the campaign if it had gone on with a full schedule," Politico's Jonathan Allen reports. What might those criticisms have been? Perhaps that Romney would be campaigning the morning after a natural disaster hit the whole East Coast? If that was the critique the campaign hoped to avoid, it's only had partial success. President Obama, on the other hand, is able to campaign just by looking presidential. To cite just one example: The White House released a photo of Obama in the Situation Room Wednesday morning:
Romney will hold a three events in Virginia, a state hit by the storm, on Thursday. Perhaps that will be relief-themed too. His campaign offices in the state, plus in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, have been gathering relief supplies, Paul Ryan said in a Florida rally Monday. Perhaps by Thursday the campaign will be able to more seamlessly blend donations and campaigning. The two messages were a little jarring side by side, as you can see in ABC News' Jonathan Karl tweet from the rally: "Romney's event it in Kettering Ohio: This photo says it all -- 'Obama: You're Fired an here's some canned goods'".