WHITE HOUSE —
President Barack Obama is urging Americans to follow evacuation orders and other instructions from emergency officials as Hurricane Sandy comes ashore
along the U.S. East Coast. The "superstorm" also is affecting the U.S. presidential campaign.
Obama canceled a campaign event in Florida on Monday, and flew back to Washington. And here in the nation's capital, the federal government and public transportation systems shut down and businesses closed.
The president met in the Situation Room with key advisers and government officials and then came to the White House briefing room to discuss the storm.
Praising what he called extraordinary cooperation among state, local and federal officials, he warned that Hurricane Sandy will affect a major portion of the country.
"The most important message that I have for the public right now is please listen to what your state and local officials are saying. When they tell you to evacuate, you need to evacuate," said the president. "Do not delay; don't pause; don't question the instructions that are being given because this is a serious storm and it could potentially have fatal consequences if people have not acted quickly."
Obama said the public should anticipate widespread power outages, as well as aid and ground transportation problems during and after the storm. Earlier, he issued state of emergency declarations to facilitate federal aid to eight U.S. states.
The storm also is affecting the U.S. presidential election campaign. Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney have canceled events at least through Tuesday.
Romney did appear at an event in the key battleground state of Ohio, where he repeated his assertion that the president Obama has failed to present voters with a clear agenda.
"The president hasn't been able to lay something out other than to say we're going to stay the course and continuing down the same road. He calls it 'going forward.' I call it forewarned. We know where this road heads," said Romney.
Obama campaign officials, including campaign manager Jim Messina, assert that early voting indicates that the president is winning the race against Romney.
"Early [voting] is giving us solid leads in the battleground states that are going to decide this election," said Messina.
Obama campaign officials say that although the president will lose time campaigning while he oversees the federal government's response to the storm, Obama still has time to step up the pace of his reelection bid ahead of Election Day on November 6.