Washington, DC - President Obama's campaign schedule has changed, thanks to Hurricane Sandy, which is now 500 miles wide and threatening the Eastern Seaboard. The President flew to Orlando, Florida on Sunday night in order to beat the storm and attend a campaign rally today at University of Central Florida, but it has now been cancelled. Instead, the President is returning to Washington this morning to monitor the storm. The White House issued this announcement about the change in plans:
"Due to deteriorating weather conditions in the Washington area, the President will not attend today's campaign event in Orlando. The President will return to the White House to monitor the preparations for and early response to Hurricane Sandy."
The White House also announced that the President will not travel to Green Bay, WI on Tuesday for a campaign event, "so that he can stay in Washington, DC on Tuesday and closely monitor the impact of and response to Hurricane Sandy."
It is currently raining in the District, with winds averaging 18 mph and picking up speed. Federal offices and government offices are closed today, and there is no metro or bus service. Residents have been advised to take precautions, store food and water, and prepare for days without power, the same guidance issued to citizens in other states.
The President departed Orlando shortly before 9:00 AM, and is scheduled to arrive at the White House by 11:00 AM. Former President Bill Clinton will still attend today's Orlando event, according to a campaign spokesman. At 3:30 PM, Clinton will attend a rally at the Covelli Center in Youngstown, where Vice President Joe Biden will also deliver remarks. After, the Vice President will travel to Columbus, Ohio, where he will remain overnight.
The impact of Hurricane Sandy on the election is much on the President's mind. Visiting an Obama for America field office in Orlando on Sunday night, the President delivered six boxes of pizza to the volunteers, and urged them to continue phone banking, saying it was crucial because he won't be able to be out on the trail stumping for votes.
"I hate to put the burden of the entire world on you but basically it's all up to you," President Obama joked to about two dozen excited volunteers. "Which is why I brought you pizza."
The President stayed at a Doubletree hotel in Orlando on Sunday night.
First Lady Michelle Obama flew to Chicago on Sunday, also traveling early in order to beat the storm, to attend campaign events in Iowa today. After speaking in Sioux City and Iowa City, Mrs. Obama is scheduled to remain overnight in Chicago. The White House has not yet issued an update to her travel plans.
Overnight, the President signed emergency declarations for the District of Columbia, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. On Sunday the President had already issued emergency declarations for Maryland and Massachusetts, which authorize federal disaster assistance.
UPDATE: Bloomberg White House correspondent Hans Nichols on Monday tweeted about the curious decision to fly the President to Orlando, only to have his rally cancelled:
Obama's 12 hour trip to Orlando....Most expensive pizza delivery in history?
— HansNichols (@HansNichols) October 29, 2012