President Obama addresses the nation about Hurricane Sandy

Breathless coverage of Hurricane Sandy on network and cable news was briefly interrupted this afternoon by a special message from President Obama. Obama cancelled campaign events that were to take place in Florida and Wisconsin on Monday and Tuesday in order to travel back to Washington, D.C., where he is monitoring the effects of the hurricane.

“Obviously, everybody is aware at this point that this is going to be a big and powerful storm,” the president said around 12:45 p.m. ET. He urged residents of the East Coast to exercise caution and listen to their state and local officials: “When they tell you to evacuate, you need to evacuate. Do not delay; do not pause or question.” He stressed that those who do not follow evacuation instructions will be putting first responders in danger.

Obama also emphasized the storm preparations that local, state, and federal governments have taken over the past few days; the president said he has spoken with the governors of every state that has declared a state of emergency, and asked the public to be patient while waiting for their power to be restored.

When he finished speaking, the president did not answer questions — except one. A reporter asked Obama how the storm will affect next week’s presidential election. Obama replied, “I’m not worried about the impact on the election — I’m worried about the impact on families, and first responders… The election will take care of itself next week. Right now, our priority is to make sure that we’re saving lives.”

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