How Mitt Romney Dealt With The Hurricane In The Room

Oct 31, 2012

Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney speaks to a crowd at the BankUnited Center in Coral Gables.
Credit Photo by Kenny Malone

Today was an important day for former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, his first day back from the Hurricane Sandy campaign hiatus.

Romney spent the day in a state uniquely associated with hurricanes (Florida) and made his second stop at a university nicknamed "The Hurricanes" (the University of Miami).

There was, of course, a hurricane in the room at the BankUnited Center Wednesday afternoon. A question, really: How would Romney transition from a sensitive public figure dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy back to a stump speech-making, political jab-taking presidential candidate?

The BankUnited rally began with the sensitive figure. "We come together in times of trial," Romney carefully said, "and this is one of those times for millions of people in our country."

Romney tip-toed around the issue of federal relief during times of disaster. He never once mentioned FEMA, instead encouraging people to give what they could to the Red Cross or The Salvation Army.

The inevitable political pivot came, and came quickly.  "Do your very best in your prayers, in your thoughts and with your funds if you can," he said. Romney waited for the sympathetic Sandy applause to disperse, adding, "...and in six days there's some other things I'd like you to do."

Again, Romney paused. It took the crowd a second to catch onto his transition back to the campaign trail.

According the political news site The Hill, Romney used a similar move on his first Florida stop today: Tampa. The Hill writes:

The GOP nominee offered a cautious approach in his return to the presidential campaign trail. Projection screens to the side of the stage urged donations to the Red Cross, and Romney asked supporters to keep the victims in their thoughts and prayers.

"We love all of our fellow citizens, we come together in times like this and we want to make sure they have a speedy recovery," Romney said. 

He did advocate for his candidacy, saying "people coming together is also what I believe will happen on Nov. 7" — the day after the election and a reflection of his confidence.

And after that, it was back to business, extolling the virtues of small business, energy independence and bold action against Iran. At one point, Romney cheekily got back to his major talking points, "I actually have a plan with five key steps to get this economy going."

Romney spoke for more than 20 minutes to a crowd of a few thousand at the BankUnited Center in Coral Gables. Among them, Onix Delafe, a small-business owner from Southwest Ranches who was pleased with how the Republican presidential nominee handled the day.

"He asked for donations. Prayers," Delafe said. "But at the same time...he's trying to rally. That's what he's here for."

"But look, there's a bigger picture here," interrupted Gustavo Delafe, Onix's son. "I think the message that Romney was trying to promote was that of a free society. That we do have the ability and we do have the heart of American people to be able to use our own dollars to give to those less fortunate."

Perhaps we saw the first sign of recovery after superstorm Sandy Wednesday: politicians get back to politics as usual.