Barack Obama urged hundreds of thousands of supporters Monday to donate to the Red Cross to help victims of Hurricane Gustav. The Democratic presidential nominee scaled back a Labor Day speech to unions in an effort to keep the focus on the Gulf Coast.
Obama planned to finish his campaign schedule Monday with stops in Michigan and Wisconsin, two battleground states the campaign views as possible wins, before heading home to Chicago to monitor the situation and decide his schedule for the rest of the week.
"Instead of a speech, what I'd like to do is to ask all of us join in some silent prayer for all those Americans who are spending this Labor Day in a shelter waiting for another storm to pass," Obama said at an outdoor rally in the shadow of General Motors' headquarters.
Republicans have criticized Obama for continuing to campaign while the storm threatens the region hit hard by Hurricane Katrina three years ago. Republican John McCain scaled back the opening of his nominating convention because of the hurricane.
"There's a time for us to argue politics, but there's a time for us to come together as Americans," Obama said, trying to place himself above politics. "I know John McCain wants what's best for the people who have been evacuated. I know George Bush wants what's best for them and so do I."
In an e-mail sent to hundreds of thousands of his supporters, Obama said, "Please give whatever you can afford, even $10, to make sure the American Red Cross has the resources to help those in the path of this storm." Aides said the e-mail did not go to people in areas likely to be affected by Gustav.
In his brief remarks Monday, Obama praised organized labor, which typically works on behalf of Democratic candidates.
"The idea behind the labor movement is that you don't walk alone. You're not by yourself. And each of us are vulnerable by ourselves. Each of us are subject to tragedy and disaster," Obama said.
"I believe it's important to have a president who doesn't choke on the word 'union.' And I believe we have to have a Department of Labor that believes in labor."
Obama's running mate, Joe Biden, also skipped a Labor Day parade in Pittsburgh to monitor the storm on Monday.