Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney launched the final leg of his quest for the White House by visiting storm-battered Louisiana on Friday. He drove through a town that was flooded by Hurricane Isaac in part because it's still outside the vast flooding protection system built with federal funds after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.
Romney and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) spent close to an hour meeting with first responders and local officials. Romney shook hands with National Guardsmen outside the U.S. Post Office and talked with a local resident, Jodie Chiarello, 42, who lost her home in Isaac's flooding.
Chiarello said she told Romney, "I lost everything" and that the presidential contender advised her on how to get assistance. "He said that he was going to do the best that he could for us," she said.
"He just told me to, um, there's assistance out there," Chiarello said of her conversation with Romney. "He said, go home and call 211." That's a public service number offered in many states.
Chiarello said she will likely seek some other shelter because her home was submerged in the flooding. She expressed frustration about the town's lack of flood protection.
"We live outside the levee protection that's why we get all this water because they close the floodgates up front and all they're doing is flooding us out down here," she said. "It's very frustrating, very. We go through Katrina and Rita and now we're going through Cindy, Lee and now Isaac."
Romney's last-minute visit, announced less than 12 hours after he became the Republican nominee, took him to the disaster area ahead of his Democratic rival, President Barack Obama. The president was following with his own visit to Louisiana on Monday, the White House announced.
Romney went at Jindal's invitation, his campaign said. Jindal, a Republican, told reporters Romney had been in touch several days ago to ask how he could help with storm relief and Jindal suggested Romney come down and see the damage for himself. He said he had extended an invitation to Obama as well.
On the visit from the pair of Republicans, Chiarello said, "He’s good. He’ll do the best for us. He has our best interests at heart. I thought he’d be more like a politician, but it was more understanding and caring."