CORAL GABLES, Florida (Reuters) - Presidential candidate Mitt Romney held back from his usual attacks on President Barack Obama on Wednesday with the East Coast reeling from storm Sandy, but the positive tone did not extend to other Republican speakers at his events.
As Obama traveled to New Jersey to survey the damage with Republican Governor Chris Christie, Romney staged a show of strength in Florida, where polls give him a narrow edge in the most populous swing state. He appeared with two of the state’s most popular politicians, Senator Marco Rubio and former Governor Jeb Bush.
Rather than blasting Obama for what he typically calls failures to turn around the economy, Romney did not mention Obama’s name, instead saying a change in course is needed and that he would bring Americans together if elected on Tuesday.
“Look, we can’t go on the road we’re on, we can’t change course in America if we keep on attacking each other. We have got to come together,” he said.
Romney’s speeches were evidence of how the campaign has adjusted out of respect for victims of the storm Sandy.
“One of the reasons we’re making sure that we’re striking a positive tone today is there are some folks that are still dealing with the remnants of the storm today,” said senior Romney adviser Kevin Madden.
But other Republican speakers did not hold back.
In his introductory remarks, Bush, brother of former President George W. Bush, accused Obama of dividing Americans rather than focusing on practical economic solutions, pointing out that Obama has frequently blamed Bush for weak economic conditions.
“Do you honestly think that this president is capable of bringing people together? His entire strategy is to blame others - starting with my brother, of course. Basically, he blames every possible thing rather than having the humility to be able to reach out and to find common ground,” said Bush.
Other speakers were tougher.
Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart said Obama established a weak foreign policy with a speech to Muslims in Cairo early in his term that he said established the conditions for the September attack by militants on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans were killed. Republicans have frequently accused Obama of setting an apologetic tone for the United States in that speech.
“Now Egypt is controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood. Now, in Libya, they murder our ambassador, kill three other brave Americans and the president is nowhere to be found to answer what happened,” Diaz-Balart said.
Romney, who canceled political events earlier this week due to the storm, urged Florida voters to send donations to the Red Cross to help the victims. He said he believed his election next week would also be an example of Americans coming together.
“We come together at times like these. Now people coming together is what’s also going to happen on November 7,” he said in Tampa, referring to the day after the election.
Romney is doing better in polls in Florida than in Ohio, another crucial state where Obama was 5 percentage points ahead in a New York Times-Quinnipiac University poll on Wednesday.
“He’s going to win Florida,” Bush told reporters confidently as he boarded Romney’s plane.
Romney aides say the race overall is essentially tied. They have taken steps in recent days to try to take advantage of what they see as an opportunity in traditionally Democratic Pennsylvania, where polls have been tightening.
The Romney campaign has spent on advertising in Pennsylvania although there has been no plan for the candidate to travel there.
Editing by Alistair Bell and Mohammad Zargham