JEAN LAFITTE, La. (AP) - Republican Mitt Romney launched the final leg of his quest for the White House by visiting storm-battered Louisiana on Friday. He drove through a town that was flooded by Hurricane Isaac in part because it's still outside the vast flooding protection system built with federal funds after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.
Just hours after accepting the presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., Romney swooped into this fishing community, where Isaac brought severe flooding to the area earlier in the week before being downgraded to a tropical storm.
His host was Republican Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is now calling on the federal government to expand the rebuilt flood protection system that prevented serious flooding in New Orleans during this week's storm. That system, built after flooding from Katrina devastated much of New Orleans, cost the Army Corps of Engineers $14.5 billion. It doesn't extend as far as Jean Lafitte, which is situated in Jefferson Parish, and has been affected by a series of hurricanes, including Katrina, Rita, Cindy and now Isaac.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney talks with local residents during a tour of areas flooded by the Isaac storm Friday in Jean Lafitte, La.
"It is absolutely critical that the Corps, and certainly our delegation working them, but that the Corps and the federal government look at those other levees," Jindal said Thursday. Lafitte is included in a proposed ring levee that the state hopes to build, but there are no concrete plans to build yet.
"I'm here to learn and obviously to draw some attention to what's going on here," Romney told Jindal, who he accompanied to the town hall to meet with emergency workers. "So that people around the country know that people down here need help."
Hurricane Isaac is blamed for at least six deaths in Louisiana and Mississippi. It submerged hundreds of homes, forced thousands of others to evacuate and cut power to nearly half of Louisiana's homes and businesses.
Romney didn't speak to reporters as he toured Jean Lafitte on Friday. A Romney spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment on whether Romney would support additional funding for the region's levee system.
Jindal did explain the issue to Romney as they climbed into the Republican nominee's SUV and began their tour.
"It (the levee system) performs well, but the areas here - the other areas ..." Jindal said, trailing off because Romney jumped in.
"Are outside, outside that levee system," Romney said.
Romney's motorcade, including trucks equipped to drive through high water, edged gingerly down Jean Lafitte Boulevard, a main road.
Accompanied by National Guard vehicles, the caravan inched through water that at some points was a foot or more deep, submerging gas stations, flooding homes and covering front laws. Residents stood in the water and watched the motorcade pass.
Flood protection was clearly on the minds of residents. A man who waved a neon yellow sign reading "Mitt Is Our Man" wondered why levees had not been able to protect the low-lying areas of this fishing community.
"It has really destroyed us," the man said to Romney after the motorcade stopped on the side of the road. "I don't know why we can't come up with something that saves all."
Romney's last-minute visit, announced less than 12 hours after he became the Republican nominee, took him to the disaster area ahead of his Democrat rival, President Barack Obama.