Update: Obama this morning has decided to cancel his Florida appearance and is headed back to Washington.
President Barack Obama left Washington Sunday evening to campaign in Orlando, Fla. as an epic storm prepared to strike across hundreds of miles of the East Coast causing major flooding, massive power outages and extensive wind damage.
Obama will hold a campaign rally with former President Bill Clinton at the University of Central Florida Monday, but has cancelled an event this afternoon in Northern Virginia where wind damage is expected to be extensive, and another campaign event Tuesday in Colorado.
The ‚??Frankenstorm‚?Ě is expected to begin a several day siege of the nation‚??s capitol Monday morning, as well as in Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and New England, leaving millions without power.
The massive storm extends over 700 miles, and after wrecking havoc along the coast is expected to turn into a blizzard dumping as much as ten inches of snow along the way in Western Maryland, West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky.
More than 7,000 flights have been cancelled, the federal government is closed today in the Washington area, affected states are keeping their workers at home, commuter train services are cancelled in the capitol and in New York City where the trading floor of the stock exchange will also be closed.
Obama made a public appearance with FEMA officials Sunday afternoon before leaving for Florida, and said the federal government stands ready to provide relief to the affected states, while incorporating his campaign slogan ‚??lean forward‚?Ě into his message.
‚??My message to the governors, as well as to the mayors, is anything they need, we will be there,‚?Ě Obama said. ‚??And we‚??re going to cut through red tape. We‚??re not going to get bogged down with a lot of rules. We want to make sure that we are anticipating and leaning forward into making sure that we‚??ve got the best possible response to what is going to be a big and messy system.‚?Ě
‚??At this stage, everybody is confident that the staging process, the prepositioning of resources, commodities, equipment that are going to be needed to respond to this storm are in place. But as (FEMA chief Craig Fugate) has emphasized, this hasn‚??t hit landfall yet, so we don‚??t yet know where it‚??s going to hit, where we‚??re going to see the biggest impacts.¬† And that‚??s exactly why it‚??s so important for us to respond big and respond fast as local information starts coming in,‚?Ě Obama said.
The Orlando Sentinel reported that Obama arrived at his campaign headquarters there Sunday night carrying six pizzas for his volunteers and staff manning the phones.
‚??You guys look hungry. You‚??ve worked so hard,‚?Ě Obama said. ‚??All the polls say it is going to be a close race. And so whoever is able to get their voters out, they‚??re the ones who win Florida. We win Florida, we win this election. I hate to put the burden of the entire world; on you but basically it‚??s all up to you. That‚??s why I brought you pizza.‚?Ě
The White House issued a statement saying the president will be kept updated regularly on what is expected to be a devastating storm while he is on the campaign trail, and again incorporated his campaign slogan.
‚??The president will continue to receive regular briefings on these efforts, and has made clear that he expects his team to continue to lean forward as Hurricane Sandy approaches,‚?Ě the White House said.