President Obama surveys Isaac damage, response

(AP) - President Barack Obama's trip to the hurricane zone three days after rival Mitt Romney looked over flooded homes and businesses underscores the differences

WOODBURY - (AP) - President Barack Obama's trip to the hurricane zone three days after rival Mitt Romney looked over flooded homes and businesses underscores the differences in the way the presidential candidates see the role of government.

So far, the president's remarks about the storm have focused on what money and resources the federal government can marshal to help. Romney, the Republican challenger, used his trip Friday to emphasize the need for charitable donations to help people recover.

Obama was visiting Louisiana late Monday to hear about the damage from local officials, view the recovery efforts and make a statement likely to highlight the government's role in the crisis. Obama was slated to walk through hard-hit St. John the Baptist Parish, 30 miles outside of New Orleans. It's a small, heavily Catholic area of about 45,000 residents. The largest city is LaPlace, where several neighborhoods were inundated by water and some residents were rescued from rooftops by boats.

Aside from drawing a distinction with Romney on the role of government, Obama also will signal the advantages he has over his opponent as a sitting president. The White House publicized how much Obama has done to oversee the storm response - he called governors and mayors, received briefings by weather and security advisers, and declared states of emergency before the storm hit.

Since the storm hit last week, Democrats have been using the disaster issue to hammer Romney and his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, whose budget had proposed eliminating $10 billion a year in disaster spending and requiring Congress to pay for emergencies by cutting from elsewhere in the budget. GOP leaders blocked that proposal, and Romney hasn't said whether he agreed with Ryan's proposed cuts.

Both Romney's team and the president's insist that their visits are not aimed at political gain. But the specter of Hurricane Katrina helps explain why both men sought to tour Isaac's damage. Presidents, and would-be presidents, can't afford to get panned the way President George W. Bush did in the days after Katrina crippled New Orleans and the Mississippi and Alabama coasts in 2005, killing more than 1,800.

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