Mary Altaffer, Associated Press
TAMPA, Fla. — Mitt Romney is making the first stop of his fall campaign for the White House a visit to hurricane-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. President Barack Obama, for his part, served notice that he will use his powers of incumbency to make Romney's mission hard.
Fresh from the Republican National Convention, Romney scheduled a visit to Lafitte, outside New Orleans, where he was joining Gov. Bobby Jindal on a scheduled tour of storm damage.
At a farewell rally as he left Tampa, Romney made no mention of the storm and kept his focus squarely on the economy. The GOP nominee said he and running mate Paul Ryan "understand how the economy works, we understand how Washington works. We will reach across the aisle and find good people who like us, want to make sure this country deals with its challenges. We'll get America on track again."
Ryan, warming up the crowd for Romney, told supporters: "Coming out of Tampa, we have given our fellow countrymen a very clear choice." He offered Romney as "a man for the moment" and cast the election as a choice between a failed presidency and a stagnant economy, and fresh leadership that will turn the economy around. Ryan also asked for prayers for those affected the hurricane and by an earthquake in the Philippines.
From there, Romney plunged into the fall whirlwind — first stop Louisiana — on a new campaign plane painted with the slogan "Believe in America." Ryan split off for the battleground state of Virginia.
Hurricane Isaac, later downgraded to a tropical storm, left a wake of misery in Louisiana, with 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.
Romney heads into the 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," Romney 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."
His wife made the rounds of Friday morning talk shows to offer her husband as the solution to the country's economic problems, and predicted that argument would hold sway with women who haven't voted Republican in the past.
Ann Romney said women tell her: "It's time for the grown-up to come, the man that's going to take this very seriously and the future of our children very, very seriously. I very much believe this is going to be an economic election, and I think a lot of women may be voting this cycle around in a different way than they usually are, and that is thinking about the economy."
Obama, who will hold his own convention next week, headed for a Texas military base exactly two years after declaring the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq, the war that haunts the last Republican president. This, as Democrats prepare to gather in Charlotte, N.C., for Obama's convention.
Where Romney gave a shout-out to members of the military during his rally, Obama was able to flex the powers of the presidency. He signed an executive order to improve access to mental health services for veterans, service members and military families.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Obama's visit Friday to Fort Bliss would highlight administration efforts to support U.S. service members and their families, both in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those efforts include attempts to combat what Carney called "unseen wounds" of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, including post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.
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