As Hurricane Looms, Obama Suspends Political Talk for the Day
By Shailagh Murray and Perry Bacon Jr.
DETROIT -- Sen. Barack Obama shelved his stump speech and urged supporters to "give what you can" to the American Red Cross to help with Hurricane Gustav relief.
"Today's not a day for political speeches," Obama told a large crowd that had gathered on a downtown plaza here for the annual Labor Day parade. "There's a time for us to argue politics, but there's a time for us to come together as Americans."
The Obama campaign said it would solicit its 2 million donors by e-mail this afternoon. The Democratic nominee will attend a Labor Day barbecue in Monroe, Mich., then appear at a rally tonight in Milwaukee, Wisc.
Obama will return to Chicago tonight to monitor the storm damage, his aides said. They did not rule out possibly visiting the Gulf Coast region later this week.
Today's stops were important because they targeted blue-collar Democrats who had been wary about the Illinois senator. But instead of asking for voters, Obama led the crowd in a prayer for storm victims. Presumptive GOP nominee John McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, traveled to the Gulf Coast on Monday, and Republicans had criticized Obama for continuing to attack McCain on the stump, as a potential natural disaster prepared to strike.
Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden canceled his plans to walk in the Labor Day parade in Pittsburgh today, declaring that the potential of a major hurricane meant "this shouldn't be a day for national politics."
Instead, he held a hastily-arranged press conference. Biden spoke for more than ten minutes about importance of helping people in New Orleans and other areas who might be affected by the hurricane, even reading out the Red Cross phone number (1-888-217-9599) . He said he had no plans to visit the region, worrying his appearance would detract from resources devoted to hurricane relief.
"Our focus today should be on what's happening in the Gulf," he said.
He described the response of the federal, state and local governments as "so far, so good," but his remarks implied a rebuke of those agencies performances three years ago.
"I'm convinced we will not have a repeat of the shameful way Katrina was handled," Biden told a group of more than a dozen reporters.
The Delaware senator is still scheduled to head to Scranton for what had been his major event of the day. Biden spent the first ten years of his life in the eastern Pennsylvania city that is now famous for being the setting of the popular show "The Office" and the campaign has scheduled an event in his boyhood home where he will be greeted by people who knew him then.
Web Politics Editor
September 1, 2008; 12:40 PM ET
Categories: Barack Obama , Conventions , Democratic Party , Joe Biden
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