AVON LAKE, Ohio — As Sandy closed in on the east coast Monday, a slightly subdued Mitt Romney used a campaign rally here to call for national unity and urge supporters to donate to hurricane relief efforts.
"On the eastern coast of our nation, a lot of people are enduring some very difficult times, and our hearts and our prayers go out to them as we think about how tough it's going to be there," Romney told a high school gymnasium packed with voters. "I don't think there's been a hurricane in Ohio in a long time, but there's been some hurricanes that have caused a lot of damage across this country, and hurt a lot of families."
He continued, "I'd like to ask you who are here today to think about making a contribution to the Red Cross or to another relief agency, to be of help if you possibly can in any way you can imagine to help those who are in harm's way."
Minutes before Romney took the stage, his campaign communications director sent out a statement notifying press that the candidate was canceling his evening rally in Wisconsin, as well as all campaign events the following day "out of sensitivity for the millions of Americans in the path of Hurricane Sandy."
Romney delivered a defanged version of his standard stump speech, eliminating a section where he accuses President Obama of running a "small" campaign, and nixing a joke he's been using the past couple days poking fun at Joe Biden's geographic mixup.
Instead, he highlighted contrasts between his views and Obama's, and spent more time talking about the need for unity.
"We've faced these kinds of challenges before, and as we have, it's interesting to see how Americans come together," he said. "This looks like another time when we need to come together all across the country, even here in Ohio, and make sure we give of our support to the people who need it."
Romney will go on to a scheduled campaign stop in Davenport Iowa later Monday, before taking a break from campaigning during the storm.