Romney Tours Damage From Isaac In Louisiana

On his first day as the GOP's official Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney headed to Louisiana where he toured damage from Hurricane Isaac. Ari Shapiro talks to Melissa Block.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block. Mitt Romney made a last minute change to his travel plans today. On his first day as the official Republican presidential nominee, he and Paul Ryan were supposed to begin a swing state campaign tour. Instead, while Ryan headed to a previously scheduled event in Virginia, Romney flew to Louisiana.

He got a tour of the damage from Hurricane Isaac. President Obama plans to visit the area on Monday. NPR's Ari Shapiro joins me from Jean Lafitte, Louisiana, where he's travelling with the Romney campaign. Ari, what did Mitt Romney see and what did he have to say about it?

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Well, you have to imagine this is a small fishing town south of New Orleans, outside of the levee system that protects New Orleans. And so, this is an area that is prone to flooding and the people here are pretty resentful that they are not protected in the same way the city of New Orleans is. So you imagine these big, you know, oak trees dripping with Spanish moss in a foot or more of water, people wading through their front yards.

We saw somebody canoeing down a road. And Mitt Romney made a few stops, talking with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, with locals, and meeting with first responders who were handing out water.

BLOCK: There was this comment today from the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Ari, saying that it's the height of hypocrisy for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan to make a pretense of showing sympathy for hurricane victims when, he said, their policies would leave those affected by this disaster stranded and on their own. Did this turn into a political stop for Mitt Romney as he was there?

SHAPIRO: Well, it was not overtly political in the sense that he didn't talk about President Obama's economy and he didn't talk about his five-point plan for creating jobs. But it was political in the sense that the Romney campaign wants to show that Mitt Romney can look presidential and it is a long tradition of presidents to go the scene of a natural disaster, console people who have suffered, meet with first responders and reassure them that things will get better.

And that's exactly what he's doing. You know, the Romney campaign believes firmly that voters have made up their mind about President Obama and are not satisfied with him, but they're just not sure yet whether they can see Mitt Romney as a president. So the campaign hopes that the pictures coming out of Louisiana will help give people the idea that this guy really could be a president. And so in that sense, yes, it was a political event in a way.

BLOCK: And did you get any sense of how he was received in Louisiana?

SHAPIRO: You know, as this motorcade was going along - we're in a high water military vehicle right now - there was a man by the side of the road in a straw hat holding a big sign that said: Mitt's our man. He was waving and so Romney asked to pull over the motorcade. He got out and chatted with this guy, who was obviously very friendly.

We passed another house where a banner was hanging outside the front that said: Where's our levees? Showing some real anger that the levees that protect the city of New Orleans do not protect this small town of Jean Lafitte.

BLOCK: And we mentioned that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan were supposed to be campaigning together. What's next?

SHAPIRO: Well, from here, Mitt Romney goes on to Cincinnati, which is where he was scheduled to campaign anyway, an important swing state, obviously. He was going to be in the troika of Florida, Virginia and Ohio over these two days. Instead of Virginia, he made this little jog down to Louisiana, but after that it's back on schedule.

BLOCK: That's NPR's Ari Shapiro in Jean Lafitte, Louisiana, where he's travelling with the Romney campaign. Ari, thank you.

SHAPIRO: Good to talk to you.

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