The White House announced Friday that President Obama would visit the area on Monday, moving both campaigns more deeply into the politics of disaster relief. It’s an issue that once tripped up President George W. Bush, who was pilloried for his reaction to 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.
Romney made his trip the day after the Republican National Convention; Obama’s visit will come the day before the Democrats’ convention, raising concerns that both sides were using Louisiana as a political photo opportunity.
“It is the height of hypocrisy for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan to make a pretense of showing sympathy for the victims of Hurricane Isaac when their policies would leave those affected by this disaster stranded and on their own,’’ Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said in a statement.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) added: “It is an affront for Mitt Romney to go to Louisiana given what the Ryan budget would have meant for our emergency preparedness.”
Stuart Stevens, Romney’s top political strategist, dismissed the criticism. “The thought never occurred to me that it would be inappropriate to come and see people,” Stevens told reporters in Louisiana, noting that Romney has been in touch with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R), and came to Louisiana at Jindal’s invitation.
Asked whether it was important for Romney to visit the Gulf Coast area before Obama, Stevens said that was not a factor. “The convention’s over, this is happening,’’ Stevens said. “Now it’s not as disruptive because it’s not in the middle of the storm.’’
Obama planned to visit Louisiana on Monday “to meet with local officials and view ongoing response and recovery efforts to Hurricane Isaac,” the White House said. Because of that trip, Obama canceled a planned campaign visit to Cleveland on Monday as part of a tour of swing states ahead of the Sept. 4-6 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. But he was sticking with the rest of a three-day trip starting Saturday to Iowa, Colorado and Toledo, Ohio.
White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Friday aboard Air Force One that Obama’s trip to Louisiana was planned before Romney announced his own visit to the state. “Obviously when you’re president of the United States, coordinating travel carries with it unique logistical challenges,” Carney said. “It was the assessment of the president’s team working with all the people involved in operations as well as people on the ground that Monday was a good day.”
On Friday, Romney met with residents of the town of Lafitte who were affected by the damage and, with his wife Ann, briefly spoke with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) .