TAMPA, Fla. -- Mitt Romney struck a moderate tone Wednesday with only an oblique criticism of his rival President Obama, as both campaigns deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and its impact on the race.
The Republican presidential candidate spent the majority of his speech outlining his five-point plan to rebuild the American economy without tearing down the president's policies, a typical and necessary occurrence during his stump speech.
Sandy's impact has placed the campaign into a suspended state as both candidates figure out when to proceed as normal. With six days left in the campaign, and the president with a slight edge in many swing state polls, Romney must tread lightly in figuring out when voters are ready for partisan rhetoric.
Wednesday morning, he decided, was not the time. In deference to those affected along the Eastern seaboard, Romney began by asking the 2,000 Floridians in the crowd -- used to receiving help after hurricanes - to return the favor in any way possible.
"We're going through trauma in a major part of the country - the kind of trauma you've experienced here in Florida more than once," Romney said as he referenced large screens explaining how to donate to the Red Cross at the event. "And so please, if you have an extra dollar or two, send them along and keep the people who are harm's -- 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 was joined by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and current Sen. Marco Rubio, who offered their own condolences to those affected by Sandy, and urged their supporters to donate.
However, Romney did draw a contrast between himself and Obama. Without mentioning the president's name during his 20-minute speech, Romney's only attack came when he offered to bring about "real change", a play on Obama's 2008 campaign slogan.
"Now I don't just talk about change; I actually have a plan to execute change and to make it happen," Romney said as the 2,000 person crowd erupted in cheers.
Romney is resuming a full schedule, making three stops in Florida Wednesday, while President Obama toured Sandy's devastation along the coast with New Jersey governor Chris Christie. Christie, a strong Romney supporter, has been emphatic in his praise of the president's job during this crisis.