President Barack Obama warned Gulf Coast residents in Isaac's path not to "tempt fate" by ignoring government warnings—including possible calls to evacuate—as he detailed his administration's preparations for the powerful tropical storm on Tuesday.
"Now is not the time to tempt fate, now is not the time to dismiss official warnings" he said in a public statement in the Diplomatic Room of the White House. "You need to take this seriously." His brief remarks underlined that he, too, was taking the storm seriously even as he embarked on a campaign swing through Iowa and Colorado.
The president said he had received an update on preparations for Isaac with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate and National Hurricane Center Director Dr. Rick Knabb.
Obama's remarks, delivered from behind a lectern with the official presidential seal arrayed beneath a portrait of George Washington, served as a reminder of the power of the incumbency.
And with Republicans due to celebrate private enterprise—and deride Obama as someone who has a government-knows-best philosophy—at their convention in Tampa, the president's remarks seemed to carry a hint of rebuke.
"As we prepare for Isaac to hit, I want to encourage all residents of the Gulf Coast to listen to your local officials and follow their directions, including if they tell you to evacuate. We're dealing with a big storm and there could be significant flooding and other damage across a large area," the president said.
"The hardest work, of course, is still ahead," he said. "And as president, I'll continue to make sure that the federal government is doing everything possible to help the American people prepare for and recover from this dangerous storm."
Republicans shortened their convention by one day amid concerns that the storm could either hit the city or strike another area on the Gulf Coast—leading to images of devastation potentially recalling the chaos wrought by Hurricane Katrina seven years ago. On Tuesday, however, the party seemed to be going full speed ahead, with Mitt Romney himself expected to arrive and Ann Romney scheduled to give a much-anticipated speech aimed at warming her husband's sometimes cool image.
But Obama's remarks seemed geared to remind Americans that Romney is essentially auditioning for the role the Democrat already has.
"This storm isn't scheduled to make landfall until later today, but at my direction FEMA has been on the ground for over a week working with state and local officials in areas that could be affected--from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to Florida, and more recently, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi," he said.
Obama later left the White House, bound first for Iowa and then Colorado. He is expected to keep up an aggressive campaign pace through to the Democratic convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, next week.