JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Supporters swarmed Republican nominee Mitt Romney for a rally in Mandarin. But the campaign called an audible, sending supporters outside and setting up shop inside for the media.
"This attack on the American embassy is outrageous, it's disgusting, it breaks the hearts of all of us who think of these people who served during their lives for the cause of freedom," said Romney.
Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, was killed as the American consulate came under attack in Benghazi. U.S. officials confirmed Stevens, information officer Sean Smith and two other Americans were killed as they tried to evacuate staff members.
The Romney rally turned into a debate over Middle East policy. Romney criticized the Obama White House for sympathizing with attackers first before condemning them. The Republican White House hopeful accused the Obama Administration of sending mixed signals about condemning the attack. And so the day's political sparring for President of the United States started right here in Jacksonville.
"They clearly sent mixed messages to the world and the statement that came from the administration -- and the embassy is the administration -- was a statement which is kin to an apology and I think was a severe miscalculation."
Not long after Romney wrapped up his 10-minute response to the attacks, President Obama addressed the nation. "And make no mistake, we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people."
Back in Jacksonville, the Romney faithful were eventually allowed back inside for a shortened rally. Most supporters -- who waited up to three hours to get a glimpse of the presidential candidate -- were not upset about the delay.
"I understand why we are out here. He had something very important to talk about. I'm not disturbed by it at all," said Romney supporter Sandra McClain.
When asked if he would have handled the situation any different than President Obama, Romney walked out of the media briefing.