WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama abruptly canceled a planned campaign trip Wednesday and planned to convene his Cabinet at the White House instead, as U.S. officials grappled with the widening Ebola crisis.
The White House said Obama's trip to New Jersey and Connecticut would be postponed to a later date. Obama was to speak to reporters on Wednesday afternoon after meeting with top officials who are coordinating the government's response to Ebola.
Obama's decision to nix the trip — just a few hours before Air Force One was scheduled to depart — reflected the urgency facing the administration amid the American public's escalating concerns about potential spread of the virus.
Hours before Obama canceled his trip Wednesday, officials disclosed that a second Dallas hospital worker had tested positive for the virus after treating an Ebola patient who later died, raising fears about whether other health care workers may have also been exposed. Word that the hospital worker was on a commercial flight the evening before being diagnosed increased the pressure on the president to reassure Americans that the government has the situation under control.
Obama, speaking at a meeting with foreign defense chiefs Tuesday, implored other nations to step up their response and said the world was not doing enough to stop the virus from spreading. At the same time, he said he was confident the U.S. would be able to take the steps necessary at home and said the federal government was "surging resources into Dallas."
"We are going to make sure that all the lessons learned from Dallas are then applied to hospitals and health centers around the country," Obama said. "As I've said before, we have a public health infrastructure and systems and support that make an epidemic here highly unlikely."
The global response was again at the top of Obama's agenda during a phone call Tuesday night with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The White House said the two leaders agreed that more personnel, supplies and funds were needed to address the epidemic.
Obama had planned to travel Wednesday to New Jersey to raise money for Senate Democrats at a restaurant in Union, and then fly to Connecticut for a rally in Bridgeport for Dannel Malloy. The Democratic governor, like many other Democrats in this midterm election, is locked in a dead-heat re-election race.
When it comes to finding useful places for Obama to stump with a candidate, the pickings are slim. Many of the most imperiled Democrats, particularly Senate incumbents, are running in typically Republican states where Obama is deeply unpopular. Few of those Democrats invoke the president's name except to distance themselves from him.
So it's no surprise that Obama is narrowing his focus to a handful of competitive governor's races in Democratic-leaning states where candidates are still eager to appear with the president.
Underscoring that calculation, Obama planned to campaign Sunday in Maryland for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Anthony Brown and in his hometown of Chicago for Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn. Obama will spend the last full week of the campaign appearing at public events for Democratic candidates for governor in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Maine, the White House said.