By Jeff Mason
Orlando, Fla., Oct 29 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama canceled a campaign event in Florida on Monday to return to Washington ahead of Hurricane Sandy, a White House spokesman said.
"Due to deteriorating weather conditions in the Washington area, the president will not attend today's campaign event in Orlando," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement.
"The president will return to the White House to monitor the preparations for and early response to Hurricane Sandy," he said.
Sandy, a massive storm bearing down on the U.S. East Coast, has forced the evacuation of hundreds of thousands residents.
Obama arrived in Florida on Sunday night, coming a day early to try to beat the storm. He was to have held a joint campaign event with former President Bill Clinton.
Clinton, who has been a popular surrogate for Obama, will still attend the rally.
Obama was to have returned to Washington around 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT) on Monday, but safety concerns appear to have hampered that plan. He now will return around mid-morning.
The president delivered pizzas to a local campaign office in Florida on Sunday night and told volunteers that the burden would increase for them because he would have to curtail his campaign activities in the coming days.
Florida is a critical battleground state in the Nov. 6 election. Obama has also canceled events in the swing states of Virginia and Colorado because of the storm.
Despite the drawback of canceling events roughly a week before Election Day, the storm gives Obama an opportunity to appear presidential in the middle of a natural disaster.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has also canceled campaign events as a result of the storm.