KETTERING, Ohio -- It still had a look of a political event, but the tone was definitely different as Mitt Romney turned today's planned “victory rally” into relief for victims of a storm whose tentacles were reaching as far inland as western Ohio.
There was no political talk. The Republican spoke just five minutes in the Dayton suburb of Kettering before getting down to work shaking hands with members of the crowd, taking the bags of food items they brought with them, and helping to box them up for delivery to New Jersey.
“You make the difference you can," he said. “You can't always solve all problems yourself, but you can make a difference in the lives of one or two people."
He likened it to cleaning a football field of debris after a big game.
“We're cleaning one lane if you will,” Mr. Romney said.
Before his arrival, the giant digital screen briefly slipped in a promo for the former Massachusetts governor's candidacy between messages telling the smaller-than-usual crowd how they could use their cell phones to text contributions to the American Red Cross.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama was in Washington dealing with the remnants of Hurricane Sandy as it progressed through East Coast states.
All political signs for the Romney event had been removed from the walls of an arena on the campus of Kettering's Fairmont High School. Alabama's Randy Owen still took up a guitar to perform for the crowd while Mr. Romney, in the jeans and a blue-checkered shirt like what he's been wearing on the campaign trail, was joined on the box line by U.S. Sen. Rob Portman.
Mr. Romney canceled a second rally that had been planned later today in Elida. U.S. Sen. John McCain, who lost Ohio and the election to Mr. Obama in 2008, was not on hand in Kettering as originally scheduled, but he did plan to participate in other Ohio storm relief events today in Bowling Green, Columbus, and Ontario with U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel.
Mr. Romney urged the crowd to make cash contributions to the Red Cross or to continue to drop off non-perishable food items at his victory centers across the state.
“A lot of people are hurting this morning," he said “They were hurting last night...I had a chance to speak with some of the governors in the affected areas, and they talked about a lot of people having a hard time.”
Vice President Joe Biden canceled his two Ohio rallies set for today at Kenyon College in Gambier and the College of Wooster after serving as a last-minute substitute for Mr. Obama with former President Bill Clinton in Youngstown on Monday.
The White House today released a statement saying Mr. Obama would tend to hurricane relief efforts today and Wednesday, therefore canceling planned visits on Wednesday to Cincinnati and Akron. Mr. Obama is planning campaign stops in Springfield and Lima on Friday. Ann Romney is expected at a women's victory rally in Columbus on Thursday.
Mr. Romney and running mate Paul Ryan still plan a rally at West Chester, one of the most GOP-friendly territories in the state, on Friday.39.6895 -84.16883
Presidential candidate in Ohio, collects food for victims of superstorm.