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Friday, August 31, 2012

Obama to Visit Gulf Coast on Monday


LAKELAND, Fla. - The two contenders for the White House announced Friday morning that they would both visit the Gulf Coast to tour the damage from Hurricane Isaac and meet with officials about the recovery efforts.

Mitt Romney, fresh from the conclusion of his nominating convention in Tampa, will arrive first. His campaign said the Republican nominee would skip a planned rally in Virginia on Friday afternoon to tour the bayou region south of New Orleans.

The White House said a few hours later that President Obama would visit the region on Monday to meet with local officials in the area and view the damage left by the powerful storm.

Both men moved quickly a fter the slow-moving storm flooded many of the low-lying areas along the Louisiana and Mississippi coastlines this week, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of people.

The storm struck on the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, raising the political stakes for both men as they seek to avoid the impression of indifference that President George W. Bush initially left after the much larger storm five years ago.

This year's storm has already exerted political as well as meteorological impact. Its initial track suggested that it might hit Tampa, where as many as 50,000 people were about to gather for the Republican National Convention. Organizers canceled the first day of the convention.

Its shift west spared Tampa but raised the specter of another damaging blow to New Orleans, a city still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. Mr. Romney's organizers kept a wary eye on the storm throughout the convention, telling reporte rs that they were ready to make other schedule changes at a moment's notice.

Now, with the storm headed inland, Mr. Romney's campaign spared no time, announcing its intentions before Mr. Obama did.

The Romney campaign announced the schedule change on Friday morning, as the candidate was en route to this city along Florida's heavily populated and politically significant I-4 corridor, a belt of interstate that stretches from Daytona Beach to Tampa, where the Republicans wrapped up their convention on Thursday night.

The trip, to the bayou region south of New Orleans, will have a decidedly presidential feel. Mr. Romney plans to meet with Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, a Republican, and stop by an emergency command center.

Aides to Mr. Obama have not provided any other details about the president's schedule in the region on Monday.

The trip to New Orleans forced the president to cancel a campaign trip to Cleveland on Monday. He had been scheduled t o deliver remarks at the 11th Congressional District Community Caucus Labor Day Festival.

Follow Michael D. Shear on Twitter at @shearm.