This 1979 file photo shows Barack Obama at his high school graduation in Hawaii with his maternal grandparents, Stanley Armour Dunham and his wife, Madelyn Payne. (Obama campaign photo)
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Barack Obama will suspend campaigning for 24 hours later this week to visit his ailing, 85-year-old grandmother in Hawaii, his campaign announced tonight.
Robert Gibbs, one of the senator's top aides, told reporters aboard the campaign plane tonight that Obama's grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, was very ill, and that Obama had decided to cancel events on Thursday planned for Madison, Wis. and Des Moines. Instead he will head to Honolulu on Thursday, after a morning event in Indianapolis.
Dunham, who helped raise Obama in Hawaii, is one of his closest living relatives. Gibbs declined to provide details about her illness, citing her privacy, but said that Obama's visit was an indication that it was "very serious." Gibbs said Dunham was at her home, after being released late last week from the hospital.
"Senator Obama's grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, has always been one of the most important people in his life," Gibbs said in statement. "Along with his mother and his grandmother, she raised him in Hawaii from the time he was born until the moment he left for college. As he said at the Democratic National Convention, she poured everything she had into him."
Obama has long made spending time with his grandmother -- his mother's mother -- a priority, visiting her nearly every year around the Christmas holiday. A question that seems unanswerable at this point is whether her condition is serious enough that she might not see him win the presidency, if he does.
Gibbs said Obama would return to the campaign trail on Saturday, though it's unclear where and when that will be.
UPDATE: His campaign just announced that Obama's wife, Michelle, will campaign in his place in Akron and Columbus, Ohio on Friday, and that Obama will campaign in the West upon his return from Hawaii.
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.