Democrat Barack Obama will leave the presidential campaign trail to visit his ailing 85-year-old grandmother in Hawaii, whose health has deteriorated in recent weeks, an aide said on Monday.
With two weeks left in an intense battle for the White House, Obama will hold a campaign event in Indianapolis on Thursday and then fly to Hawaii to see his grandmother before returning to campaigning on Saturday, aide Robert Gibbs said.
"Senator Obama's grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, has always been one of the most important people in his life," Gibbs said in a statement. "Along with his mother and his grandfather, she raised him in Hawaii from the time he was born until the moment he left for college."
The campaign interruption comes as both candidates head into a final sprint for the November 4 election. Obama criticized Republican White House rival John McCain for a "say-anything, do-anything" political style as he launched a two-day tour to kick off early voting in Florida.
McCain told supporters in Missouri that "nothing is inevitable" and he could still beat Obama, who leads in national opinion polls as the pair began a frenzied race to the finish line.
Obama's former Democratic rival, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, joined the Illinois senator at a rally of 50,000 people in Orlando.
"In the final days of campaigns, the say-anything, do-anything politics too often takes over," Obama said. "We've seen it before. Hillary has been subject to it before.
"We're seeing again today -- ugly phone calls, misleading mail and TV ads, careless, outrageous statements -- all aimed at keeping us from working together, all aimed at stopping change," he said.
Obama noted McCain's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, told reporters on Sunday that if she called the shots she would end the automated phone calls being made by McCain's campaign, including some that link Obama with 1960s radical Bill Ayers.
"You have to work really hard to violate Gov. Palin's standards on negative campaigning," Obama said.
McCain defended the calls, shrugging off Palin's remarks in an interview to be aired on Tuesday morning.
"Well, Sarah is a maverick," McCain told CBS' "Early Show." "That robocall is absolutely accurate and by the way, Senator Obama's campaign is running robocalls as we speak."
FLORIDA A BATTLEGROUND
Obama planned to spend two days in Florida to encourage voters to cast their ballots early in the battleground state, which has 27 electoral votes and is vital for either candidate in their quest for the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House.
Standing on stage next to Obama, Clinton highlighted the financial crisis as she urged Florida voters to choose Obama.
"Now is the time to close the deal for Barack Obama and close the book on eight years of failed Republican leadership," she said, linking McCain to President George W. Bush.
"Sending the Republicans to clean up the economic mess in Washington is like sending the bull to clean up the china closet."
It was the third time Clinton and Obama have campaigned together since he clinched the Democratic nomination in June.
A Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll showed Obama with a 6-point edge on McCain. A new CNN poll gave Obama a 5-point lead among likely voters, down from an 8-point edge two weeks ago. Other polls also showed a tightening race.
At a rally outside Kansas City, Missouri, McCain jumped on comments from Obama's running mate, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, that Obama would be tested with an international crisis within six months of becoming president.
"We don't want a president who invites testing from the world at a time when our economy is in crisis and Americans are already fighting in two wars," McCain said.
"Senator Obama won't have the right response, and we know that because we've seen the wrong response from him over and over during this campaign."
Obama touted his endorsement from Republican former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
"He will have a role as one of my advisers," Obama said on NBC's "Today" a day after earning the endorsement of Powell, who is also a retired four-star general and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"Whether he wants to take a formal role, whether that's a good fit for him, is something we'd have to discuss."
(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason; Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by Philip Barbara)
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