Obama urges safety during Sandy, says top concern is lives, not election

President Obama on Monday appealed to Americans in the path of Hurricane Sandy to heed warnings to “evacuate” and said his top concern was “to make sure we're saving lives” – not the deadly storm’s impact on his tight re-election campaign.

"Please listen to what your state and local officials are saying,” the president said during a White House briefing room. “When they tell you to evacuate, you need to evacuate. Don't delay, don't pause, don't question the instructions that are being given because this is a powerful storm."

The president has essentially suspended campaign events through Tuesday while the huge, powerful storm churns along the East Coast headed for landfall Monday night near the New Jersey shore.

“This is going to be a difficult storm," despite food, water and power generators already in position, Obama said.

The storm is already being blamed for the deaths of at least 69 people in the Caribbean.

The Mitt Romney campaign is considering whether to send the Republican presidential nominee to New Jersey later in the week to survey storm damage with Gov. Chris Christie.

Romney also has essentially canceled his events over the next two days.