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KETTERING, Ohio—There was no Kid Rock playing on the loudspeakers, and the campaign signs were gone, replaced by a giant American flag. But Mitt Romney's "storm relief event" held at a local athletic complex here still had some of the trappings of a regular campaign rally, from the biographical Romney video to the woman in the crowd who wore a shirt that read, "Obama, You're Fired."
It also featured the same celebrity guests, including Randy Owen, the lead singer of the country group Alabama, who performed after Romney spoke.
But the Republican nominee still tried to cast a nonpolitical tone, scrapping his usual stump speech in favor of remarks about those "suffering" and "hurting" in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
"You can't always solve all the problems yourself, but you can make the difference in the life of one or two people as a result of one or two people making an effort," Romney said as he stood on a plastic equipment box in front of hundreds of stacked cans.
Romney's event here had been scheduled to be a "victory rally." But on Monday, his campaign announced he would cancel his political events on Tuesday out of respect for those affected by the storm.
Speaking to voters here, the former Massachusetts governor recalled a story from high school from when he and others were tasked with cleaning up the school's football field that was littered in the aftermath of a celebration
"There were just a few of us. And the person who was responsible for organizing the effort said, 'Just line up along the yard lines,'" Romney said. "And so today, we are cleaning one lane, if you will. We're able to gather some goods for some people that are in our lane. We're going to help them."
After speaking for about five minutes, Romney spent about a half-hour helping supporters pack up cans in boxes to send to the storm zone. The GOP nominee won't campaign for the rest of the day, but he will fly to Florida, where he is scheduled to return to campaigning Wednesday.
According to his campaign, Romney will hold rallies in Tampa, Coral Gables and Jacksonville, even as President Barack Obama spends another day off the campaign trail overseeing the administration's response to the storm.