DAYTON, Ohio — The last-minute decision by Romney high command Monday to suspend politics while Sandy raged sent aides in Ohio scrambling to convert a scheduled victory rally into an apolitical “storm relief event” — a process that tested the campaign’s agility and left a few threads of partisanship inadvertently hanging.
On Monday morning, Romney’s local team in Dayton was eagerly preparing to host the candidate the following day. A high school gym had been reserved, a stage had been rented, and a pair of celebrity guests — country singer Randy Owen and NASCAR driver Richard Petty — had been booked to give the event some B-list heft.
Then, a little before noon, communications director Gail Gitcho announced the cancellation of “all events currently scheduled” for Tuesday. The superstorm that forecasters had been warning about for days had picked up steam, and people throughout the Northeast were now bracing for the worst. In a statement, Gitcho said the decision to cancel campaign events had been made “out of sensitivity to the millions of Americans in the path of Hurricane Sandy.”
But Boston wasn’t quite ready to lose a full day of swing state visibility with a week left in the race. So, after some deliberation, the campaign decided to use their existing venue in Ohio to stage a makeshift and nonpartisan humanitarian project. It would be a way for Romney to show leadership — and get on the local news — without looking craven or opportunistic.