Obama, Romney: Please Get Out of the Way

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 30 2012 10:34 AM

Obama, Romney: Please Get Out of the Way

The reporters on the Romney bus are currently assigned to a non-campaign. Yesterday, the candidate's offices encouraged supporters to donate to the Red Cross and send relief aid in the form of water and canned goods. Today, the candidate is doing the same, at a "storm relief event" in Dayton. And the press corps, epitomized by NPR's Ari Shapiro, is watching for any evidence of politicking. From his tweets:

"Storm relief event" in Dayton begins with the Romney bio campaign video touting his record as a leader & a problem-solver. Press badge for today's "storm relief event" in Ohio:

Screen shot 2012-10-30 at 10.52.07 AM

And the event began with the video of Romney, The Leader, that plays at most Romney-Ryan events. See, here's the problem: There is almost no way an incumbent president or a challenger can help disaster recovery with his physical presence. A presidential campaign is preceded by secret service and trailed by a swollen press entourage. Traffic must be routed around the area where the candidate/president is speaking, until the guy leaves the site. What possible purpose does that serve when people are scrambling to collect aid? I'm really not criticizing Romney here -- I don't see the upside of any politicians swooping in to "get some devastation in the shot," as Bill Frist infamously told a cameraman in Haiti.

This is a situation in which Chris Christie's bravado is sorely needed.

On the question of whether Mitt Romney might go to New Jersey to tour the damage with Governor Christie, he said, “I have no idea, nor am I the least bit concerned or interested. I have a job to do in New Jersey that is much bigger than presidential politics. I could care less about any of that stuff."

Why the hell would he? Mitt Romney doesn't run anything. He cannot direct government resources anywhere. He's said he would cut FEMA, actually, so when he arrives, reporters get to ask you questions about whether you agree. Don't let them! Tell the candidates to campaign in dry states where no one is especially inconvenienced by a giant, stupid security perimeter.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.