Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., is canceling campaign events scheduled for Thursday in Madison, Wis., and Des Moines, Iowa, and flying to Hawaii because his grandmother Madelyn Dunham, 85, has taken ill, his campaign announced Monday evening.
Obama spoke to his half-sister Maya Soetoro-Ng, who is visiting their grandmother in Hawaii, on Sunday evening. It was after that call that Obama decided he needed to visit with the woman who helped raise him, as soon as possible.
On a flight from Orlando to West Palm Beach, Fla., Monday night, senior campaign adviser Robert Gibbs told reporters that the health of his grandmother had taken a turn for the worse, necessitating Obama leaving the campaign trail for two days, returning from Hawaii late Friday evening/early Saturday morning.
“Senator Obama’s grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, has always been one of the most important people in his life, along with his mother and grandfather,” Gibbs said, reading a statement. “She raised him in Hawaii from the time he was born until the moment he left for college. As he said at the Democratic Convention, she poured everything she had into him. Recently his grandmother has become ill, and in the last few weeks her health has deteriorated to the point where her situation is very serious. It is for that reason that Sen. 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.”
A new Thursday morning event in Indianapolis, Ind., has been added, after which Obama will fly to Honolulu, scheduled to arrive in the 50th state late Thursday. He will spend much of Friday with his grandmother in her apartment in Oahu –- the same apartment building where a young Obama lived while attending high school nearby.
Gibbs would not provide details about the nature of Dunham’s illness except to say that, with approximately two weeks to go until Election Day, “the decision that Sen. Obama is going to Hawaii, I think, underscores the seriousness of the situation.”
Obama, in the past, has said that his grandmother suffers from osteoporosis, has a bad back, and is going blind. Regardless of her physical conditions, Obama still describes her as “smart as a tack” and jokes that she’s “glued to CNN.”
Obama, along with his wife Michelle and daughters, Malia and Sasha last saw his grandmother in Hawaii this August –- with daily visits confined to her apartment since Dunham was too frail.
Obama then — acutely aware of her health — suggested then that it was important for his children to spend time with her, given her advanced years.
"I’m going to see my grandma, who I haven’t seen in almost 18-19 months," he said the day before the family took off for their vacation. "And, you know, who’s getting to the age where I want to make sure that I’m spending time with her on a consistent basis and so that she could see her great grandchildren."
Obama’s wife and daughters will not be joining him on this trip; instead, his wife will take his place on the campaign trail –- holding events solo in Akron and Columbus, Ohio, on Friday.
Gibbs said that the campaign would continue in Obama’s absence. Obama will resume his campaign with a Western state swing starting Saturday.
– Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller