TAMPA, Fla. — Mitt Romney is making the first stop of his fall campaign for the White House a visit to storm-damaged Louisiana, hoping to convince Americans he is not just the right man to fix the economy but an all-around leader for the nation.
Fresh from the Republican National Convention, Romney scheduled a surprise visit to Lafitte, outside New Orleans, where he was to tour storm damage with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Romney was joining part of Jindal’s scheduled day.
GOP running mate Paul Ryan was headed for the battleground state of Virginia solo, rather than in tandem with Romney.
Isaac left a wake of misery in Louisiana, leaving dozens of neighborhoods under deep flood waters and more than 800,000 people without power. While New Orleans was spared major damage, the storm walloped surrounding suburbs, topping smaller levees with days of rain and forcing more than 4,000 from their homes.
The Romney campaign has been considering a trip to the Gulf coast for days and scrapped a plan to visit earlier in the week because weather conditions on the ground were considered too dangerous.
Romney, who canceled the first day of his convention due to Isaac, is plunging into the presidential campaign’s final 67 days with his primary focus on jobs and the economy, and depicting Obama as a well-meaning but inept man who must be replaced.
“America has been patient,” he said in his speech to the nation Thursday night. “Americans have supported this president in good faith. But today, the time has come to turn the page.”
Romney capped a high-energy night closing to the convention with a spirited and unusually personal speech infused with his family life, touching on his Mormon faith and recounting his youth. The cheers were loud and frequent, surely music to the ears of a candidate who struggled throughout the bruising primary season and beyond to bury doubts among many in his party that he was the authentic conservative in the field.
“Now is the time to restore the promise of America,” Romney declared to a nation struggling with unemployment and the slowest economic recovery in decades.
Polls suggest a to-the-wire campaign finish. The two men will spend the next 10 weeks in a handful of competitive states, none more important than Florida and Ohio, and meet in one-on-one debates where the stakes could hardly be any higher.