A Republican strategist defended his party's presidential candidate Monday for saying he would privatize disaster relief programs or leave states to fend for themselves.


"Most people don't have a positive impression of FEMA," Ron Bonjean said Monday. "I think Mitt Romney was right on the button."

Bonjean was referring to remarks Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney made in a debate last year against other party contenders, when he was asked whether, in the wake of the tornado that killed 150 people in Joplin, Missouri, whether the Federal Emergency Management Agency should cede authority to individual states when they are hit by natural disasters.

"Absolutely," Romney said at the time. "Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that's the right direction. And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that's even better. Instead of thinking, in the federal budget, what we should cut, we should ask the opposite question, what should we keep?"

Romney's response brought criticism upon him over the weekend, as several states along the eastern seaboard of the U.S. prepare to be lashed by Hurricane Sandy. When moderator John King asked specifically about disaster relief, Romney doubled down on his criticism.

"We cannot -- we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids," he said. "It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we'll all be dead and gone before it's paid off. It makes no sense at all."

Politico reported Monday that Romney's campaign said he would not advocate shuttering FEMA.

"Gov. Romney believes that states should be in charge of emergency management in responding to storms and other natural disasters in their jurisdictions," a spokesperson said in a statement. "As the first responders, states are in the best position to aid affected individuals and communities, and to direct resources and assistance to where they are needed most. This includes help from the federal government and FEMA."

Bonjean said Monday he didn't think "anybody cares" about Romney's debate statements against the agency, instead suggesting that President Barack Obama could be jumping the gun by mobilizing FEMA ahead of Sandy's arrival.

"I think people care about whether or not their power's on, whether or not their basement's going to be flooded," he said. "And I think that if the president gets too far in front of this and something goes wrong, people are going to remember, hey, my power's not out, and the president's talking about FEMA. I'm not a real big fan of FEMA. That could sway their vote."

Bonjean's remarks, posted on YouTube Monday by Think Progress, can be seen below.

[h/t Think Progress]