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Mitt Romney Looks to Beat Barack Obama to Storm-Ravaged Louisiana

(Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)
(Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)

UPDATED 12:14 pm: Mitt Romney is traveling to Louisiana the morning after accepting the Republican nomination for president.

The move puts him in line to be on the ground viewing damage from Hurricane Isaac before President Barack Obama does the same. And it’s a move no doubt designed to help Romney look more presidential.

Romney is scheduled to fly to Louisiana after departing a send-off rally in Florida. Once he arrives, Romney is expected to tour storm-affected areas and meet with first responders in Lafitte, La., a community south of New Orleans that was ravaged by Isaac earlier this week.

Lafitte is in Jefferson Parish, outside the system of levees and other protective devices designed to guard New Orleans itself from flooding.  Local officials ordered a mandatory evacuation for residents of the area as the storm approached.

After Romney’s announcement, the White House issued a release saying Obama would tour the storm damage in Louisiana on Monday, Sept. 3 – the day before the start of his own party’s convention. The president may have avoided a Thursday visit in part to avoid the appearance of upstaging Romney on the day he gave his acceptance speech. Isaac’s insistence on hanging out over central Louisiana on Thursday also likely affected any White House decisions to stay away.

Today, Obama travels to Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said earlier this week that the trip is intended to highlight the end of the war in Iraq two years ago, when Obama last visited the Army base.

President George W. Bush was widely perceived as out-of-touch in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, history that both Romney and Obama would prefer to avoid repeating.

Obama has been in regular contact with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and local officials in the Gulf Coast states, including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who skipped the GOP convention because of the storm, and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu (D), the brother of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.).

Jindal is expected to meet up with Romney in Louisiana.

Local leaders have pressed the federal government for additional assistance in the immediate aftermath of the storm.

For instance, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) asked the Army Corps of Engineers to assist Mississippi officials in dealing with a dam that could cause devastating flooding downstream in Tangipahoa Parish on the Louisiana-Mississippi border. The officials are using a controlled breach to relieve the water pressure and keep the dam from failing.

Jindal and others warned residents to get out before the water’s release.

“Even though we have the assets to do high-water rescues with boats and high-water vehicles, we think it would be much better for people and our first responders if people would self-evacuate,” he said.

Romney had been expected to travel to Richmond, Va., for a joint rally with his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), and with former Sen. George Allen, who is running to reclaim the seat he lost in 2006. Now Allen will have to settle for just Ryan.

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