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Romney Blurs Campaigning Line At Ohio Event
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And I'm Audie Cornish.
Mitt Romney did not officially campaign today out of respect for those recovering from Sandy or still enduring the giant storm, but he did appear in a crucial swing state before thousands of cheering supporters.
NPR's Ari Shapiro reports on Romney's balancing act one week before the election.
ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Yesterday morning, Mitt Romney's campaign announced that he was cancelling all events scheduled for today. Those events included two rallies in Ohio and one in Iowa. Then, late last night, the campaign announced that the Des Moines rally would go forward with Ann Romney and as for this morning's cancelled event in Dayton, Ohio, in the same location with the same celebrity guests, Romney held a storm relief event with many of the trappings of a standard rally.
It began with the biographical campaign video that plays at every Romney campaign event.
(SOUNDBITE OF CAMPAIGN VIDEO)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Charisma.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: He is rock solid.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Authentic leader.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: He's valiant and so strong.
SHAPIRO: Romney aide Stuart Stevens later agreed that the video blurs the line between politicking and storm relief. He said he didn't know how it ended up being played. The press badges at this event said, Victory Rally. The lead singer from the band Alabama entertains the crowd as they clapped and cheered.
RANDY OWEN: (Singing) Hello, Ohio.
SHAPIRO: Overhead, big screens provided the number of people who text to donate to the Red Cross. People were encouraged to bring disaster relief supplies to this event. Piles of canned goods filled the tables to the side. That's where Romney stood on a small podium to address the crowd.
MITT ROMNEY: We're going to box these things up in just a minute and put them on some trucks and then we're going to send them into, I think it's New Jersey, is a site that we've identified that can take these goods and distribute them to people who need them.
SHAPIRO: He told a story about a time, years ago, when he helped clean up a football field covered with debris after a celebration.
ROMNEY: And the person responsible for organizing the effort said: Just line up along the yard lines. You go between the goal line and the 10-yard line and the next person between 10 and 20 and then just walk through and do your lane. And if everybody cleans their lane, why, we'll be able to get the job done. And so today, we're cleaning one lane, if you will.
SHAPIRO: Some of the recovery will require a greater effort than that. And today, Romney's critics are scrutinizing comments he made about FEMA in a Republican primary debate last year.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED SPEECH)
ROMNEY: Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that's the right direction. And if you go any further and send it back to the private sector, that's even better.
SHAPIRO: Democrats say that amounts to dismantling the structure that provides federal disaster relief. Not so, says Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg. Today, she said states should be in charge because they are in the best position to help individuals and communities and to direct resources where they're needed most. As Romney filled boxes with storm relief supplies today, reporters asked what he would do with FEMA as president. He ignored the questions.
Ari Shapiro, NPR News, traveling with the Obama campaign. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.