Mitt Romney briefly addressed supporters at a "storm relief" event Tuesday outside of Dayton, Ohio, thanking them for donating emergency supplies for victims of Hurricane Sandy at the Republican presidential candidate's only planned public appearance for the day.
"I appreciate your generosity. It's part of the American spirit, the American way to give to people in need," Romney told the assembled crowd, adding that they gathered "with heavy hearts, as you know, with all the suffering going on in a major part of our country this morning."
At the back of the auditorium, campaign staff and volunteers at long folding tables collected toiletries, canned goods and bottled water that Romney said would be shipped to New Jersey.
The GOP nominee said he had been in touch with governors in the affected areas. His campaign Monday said he had also been briefed by federal emergency officials about the storm.
Romney remained at the rally site and help box supplies and load them onto trucks headed toward the East Coast. He encouraged supporters to stick around and pitch in, saying that "to make this an enjoyable work setting," country music star Randy Owen — who had originally been scheduled to appear at a political rally later in the day — would perform a concert.
But the Republican presidential candidate ignored questions from reporters as he loaded the truck about whether he would tour the storm damage or eliminate FEMA as president.
“Governor, you’ve been asked 14 times. Why are you refusing to answer the question?” one reporter asked, according to the Washington Post.
Romney is set to return to the campaign trail Wednesday, with a trio of events in Florida alongside Sen. Marco Rubio, former Gov. Jeb Bush, and Rep. Connie Mack, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate in the state. Romney also has three rallies in Virginia scheduled for Thursday, likely to be the first campaign appearance by a candidate in one of the states hit by Hurricane Sandy.
This post was updated at 1:54 p.m.