Instead, Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, sought to clarify his position on the role of the federal government in disaster relief if elected president, and issued a statement affirming his support for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.
“I believe that FEMA plays a key role in working with states and localities to prepare for and respond to natural disasters,” Romney said in a statement. “As president, I will ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission, while directing maximum resources to the first responders who work tirelessly to help those in need, because states and localities are in the best position to get aid to the individuals and communities affected by natural disasters.”
Romney had raised questions last year about his view of the federal government’s role in disaster management, when he said in a GOP primary debate that natural disasters are best handled at the state level or by the private sector. In light of this week’s massive storm, which has caused damage estimated at $50 billion, Romney’s comment has reignited debate over his views on the role of the federal government.
In a conference call with reporters, top officials from the Romney campaign sought to play down Christie’s sudden new role as Obama’s sidekick.
“Governor Christie is doing a job. He is the governor of a state that has been hit by a very, very horrific storm,” said senior adviser Russ Schriefer. “He is doing exactly what he’s supposed to be doing as governor of New Jersey…. The president is doing what he needs to do as president. It's a case of a governor doing his job. That’s it.”
From the presidential helicopter, Marine One, Obama and Christie viewed the devastation on the Jersey shore – burned out houses, streets underwater or covered in sand, houses blown apart. White House reporters in a separate helicopter also surveyed the damage.