Obama halts campaigning to visit ill grandmother

DEMOCRAT Barack Obama will leave the White House trail tomorrow to head to the side of his gravely ill 85-year-old grandmother in Hawaii, just 11 days before the election.

The Illinois senator will cancel events in midwestern Iowa and Wisconsin and head to his native Hawaii, before throwing himself back into full bore campaigning on Saturday, advisor Robert Gibbs said.

Obama’s grandmother Madelyn Dunham played an instrumental role in his upbringing and he lauded her as an anchor of his life at his August convention.

“In the last few weeks her health has deteriorated to the point where her situation is very serious,” Gibbs told reporters on Obama’s plane in Florida.

“It is for that reason Senator Obama has decided to change his schedule on Thursday and Friday so that he can see her and spend some time with her. He will be returning to the campaign trail on Saturday,” said Gibbs, describing Dunham as one of the most important people in Obama’s life.

Obama has a healthy lead in polls in Iowa and Wisconsin, so cancelling stops in the two states would not seem to pose too much of a risk politically. He will campaign in Virginia today and add a stop in swing state Indiana tomorrow before heading to Hawaii.

Earlier, Obama accused Republican John McCain of launching an ugly bid to stave off defeat as he blitzed the crucial swing state of Florida, where early voting opened on Monday, with one-time foe Hillary Clinton.

“In the final days of campaigns, the say-anything, do-anything politics too often take over,” said Obama. “We’ve seen it before and we’re seeing it again — ugly phonecalls, misleading mail, misleading TV ads, careless, outrageous comments,” said Obama.

“It’s getting so bad that even Senator McCain’s running mate denounced his tactics last night... You really have to work hard to violate Governor Palin’s standards on negative campaigning.”

Sarah Palin, who has launched some of the most stinging attacks against Obama, said last Sunday that if she were in charge, she would not rely on “the old conventional ways of campaigning, that includes those robo-calls”.

The McCain campaign has been using automated calls to question Obama’s character and values in a bid to drive up his negative ratings in swing states.

Clinton, appearing at a rally with Obama in Florida, made a wholehearted appeal for Obama’s presidential bid, saying McCain just represented an extension of the Bush years.

“I am asking you to work as hard for Barack as you worked for me,” the New York senator roared in Orlando at their first double-bill rally since June.

“If you walked streets for me, then walk them for Barack,” Clinton said.

Democratic October: $134m to spend

DEMOCRATIC presidential candidate Barack Obama spent $87.5 million (€67m) last month and began October with nearly $134m in the bank.

The numbers illustrate his vast financial advantage over John McCain, his Republican rival, in the final stretch of the contest. McCain ended September with $47m in the bank.

Obama, who raised a record-shattering $150 million in September, filed his campaign finance report with the Federal Election Commission overnight. The numbers became available yesterday.

McCain is accepting public financing and cannot raise money. He is limited to $84m for the two months before Election Day.

Both candidates are also getting help from their parties. The Democratic National Committee had $27.4m in hand at the end of the month. The Republican National Committee said it had $77m.

That helps close the gap, but Democrats still hold a considerable $37m advantage.

Moreover, Obama’s $5m-a-day fundraising rate has likely continued in October and will widen the financial gap between the two sides.

By having the bulk of the money within his campaign, Obama also retains far more control over how it is spent.

He spent $65m in advertising in September compared to McCain’s $22m. In October, he has outspent McCain 4-1 in advertising. Even with Republican Party ads in the mix, Obama has had more than a 2-1 advertising edge.

Mr Obama now leads McCain by more than five points in national polls.

Jim Kuhnhenn


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