Ryan encourages donations, says Romney 'in touch with regional leaders' regarding storm

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Ryan said he and running mate Mitt Romney were "staying in touch with regional leaders" as the storm progressed, and encouraged supporters to donate to the Red Cross and tell their friends and family members in the path of the storm to listen to warnings and check on elderly neighbors. He also encouraged Floridians to visit Romney field offices in the state to drop off donations for those in the storm's path. Earlier in the day, an aide to the Romney campaign said the Republican nominee had reached out to Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose states are also affected by the storm.

"Swing by, give a hand, you know firsthand what people are going to need," Ryan said.

The Wisconsin lawmaker praised Florida utility crews for heading to the Northeast to assist in what is expected to be a massive clean-up effort after the hurricane's landfall.

"Thank God for men and women like that. Thank you for sending your people. That's what we do for one another in this country," Ryan said.

The patriotic theme was not merely rhetorical at the rally, where aides had forgone traditional campaign signage, instead distributing American flags to the assembled crowd. 

"And so, since we all love this country, let's put our neighbors to the north in our prayers. Let's do what we need to do to help them get through what is coming their due, what is coming in their way, and let's not forget that this is the greatest country on the face of the earth," Ryan said.

But while Ryan looked to stay nonpartisan at the top of his remarks, he quickly pivoted into his standard stump speech, hitting President Obama for partisanship and looming defense cuts that would be enacted because of sequestration. 

"On day one, Mitt Romney and I are not going to let that happen," Ryan said. "We are not going to gut our military, we believe in peace through strength, we believe in a strong military."

It's a crucial sell for the Republican ticket, which has seen the race narrow in Florida, a crucial battleground state without which Romney is unlikely to be elected. In polls released Monday, Democratic-leaning firm Public Policy Polling gave Obama a 1-point lead in the state; a similar poll from CNN and ORC gave the Republican ticket a 1-point edge.