JEAN LAFITTE, La. – Republican 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 its still outside the vast flooding protection system built with federal funds after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.
Just hours after accepting the presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., Romney swooped into this fishing community, where Isaac brought severe flooding to the area earlier in the week before being downgraded to a tropical storm.
His host was Republican Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is now calling on the federal government to expand the rebuilt flood protection system that prevented serious flooding in New Orleans during this weeks storm.
That system, built after flooding from Katrina devastated much of New Orleans, cost the Army Corps of Engineers $14.5 billion.
It doesnt extend as far as Jean Lafitte and has been affected by a series of hurricanes, including Katrina, Rita, Cindy and now Isaac.
Romney was silent on whether, as president, he would support paying for such an expansion. Romneys running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, has proposed eliminating $10 billion a year in disaster spending and requiring Congress to pay for emergencies by cutting from elsewhere in the budget. That proposal was blocked by GOP leaders.
Im here to learn and obviously to draw some attention to whats going on here, Romney told Jindal, who he accompanied to the town hall to meet with emergency workers. So that people around the country know that people down here need help.
Romney didnt speak to reporters as he toured Jean Lafitte on Friday. A Romney spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment on whether Romney would support additional funding for the regions levee system.
Romneys motorcade, including trucks equipped to drive through high water, edged gingerly down Jean Lafitte Boulevard, a main road.
Accompanied by National Guard vehicles, the caravan inched through water that at some points was a foot or more deep, submerging gas stations, flooding homes and covering front laws. Residents stood in the water and watched the motorcade pass.
Flood protection was clearly on the minds of residents.
A man who waved a neon yellow sign reading Mitt is Our Man wondered why levees had not been able to protect the low-lying areas of this fishing community.