Obama to return from vacation a day early

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama has returned to the White House from Martha’s Vineyard to be in Washington for Hurricane Irene.

The storm is expected to hit the East Coast with heavy winds and rain, causing fears of human injury and property damage.

As head of state, Obama is expected to manage the government’s response to the hurricane, or any major disaster.

As a politician, he’s also well aware of the political damage President George W. Bush suffered in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Obama’s approval rating is already down for the year. A poll released yesterday reaffirmed the downward slide in the public’s assessment of his leadership.

Friday morning, Obama and his top officials took to the Internet and TV to warn Americans of the possible danger, and to reassure them that the government and a myriad of non-profits have assembled recovery teams and stockpiled food, water and other resources.

Irene “is likely to be a extremely dangerous and costly storm,” Obama said, shortly before he announced he would depart Martha’s Vineyard a day early. “I cannot stress this highly enough — if you are in the projected path of this hurricane, you have to take precautions now … we all hope for the best, but have to be prepared for the worst.”

The White House press office indicated this morning the president would return to Washington tonight.

Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, used a morning press conference to declare that “the president has directed us to ensure that all needed resources are available, and that we should coordinate with our state and local partners, who are actually the first responders.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, for example, is shutting down the New York City metro system, and has directed that state bridges be closed if winds exceed 60 miles per hour.

The new leadership poll showed that the percentage of Americans who believe Obama to be a strong leader has declined from 58 percent in May to 49 percent in August. The president’s leadership rating fell 10 percentage points among Democrats, and eight percentage points among independents, according to the mid-August survey of 1,509 adults. The poll was conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.