TAMPA, Fla.—Mitt Romney returned to the campaign trail on Wednesday, offering a toned-down version of his stump speech as the East Coast struggles to recover from the impact of superstorm Sandy and urging supporters to contribute to the American Red Cross.
The Republican presidential nominee omitted lines from his speech that attacked President Barack Obama by name. But he still made sly reference to his Democratic opponent when explaining why voters should pick him on Election Day.
"I don't just talk about change," Romney said in a nod to Obama's 2008 campaign message. "I actually have a plan to execute change and make it happen."
Romney's Tampa rally, held at an airplane hangar on the grounds of the Tampa airport, lacked the usual campaign decor of recent events, including signs pushing his message on the economy and jobs. Instead, the space was adorned with American flags and large television screens projecting a message urging attendees to contribute to the American Red Cross's Sandy relief efforts. At the top of his appearance, Romney urged supporters to keep those affected by the storm in their thoughts.
"Please, if you have an extra dollar or two, send them along and keep the people … who have been in harm's way, who've been damaged either personally or through their property, keep them in your thoughts and prayers," Romney said. "We love all of our fellow citizens. We come together in times like this, and we want to make sure that they have a speedy and quick recovery from their financial and, in many cases, personal loss."
Romney used the storm to pivot to the nation's standing after Election Day, emphasizing a more hopeful tone in the closing days of the campaign.
"People coming together is what's also going to happen, I believe, on Nov. 7th," Romney said. "I could not be in this race if I were not an optimist. I believe in the future of this country. I know we have huge challenges, but I'm not frightened by them. I'm invigorated by the challenge. We're going to take on these challenges, we're going to overcome them."
Asked about the tone of the speech, Kevin Madden, a senior adviser to Romney, later told reporters the candidate had decided to strike a more upbeat note in the wake of Sandy.
"Our focus today is going to continue to be to strike a positive tone, about what the governor would do on Day One of a Romney presidency," Madden said.
Romney was preceded onstage by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who urged Americans to back the former governor on Tuesday.
"Mitt Romney is made for this job of president of the United States," Bush declared.