2008_10_bobg.jpgDemocratic candidate Barack Obama will suspend his campaign later this week to visit his 85-year-old grandmother, who had recently been in the hospital, in Hawaii.

Obama campaign communications directors Robert Gibbs said, "Senator Obama's grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, has always been one of the most important people in his life, along with his mother and his grandfather. Recently his grandmother has become ill and in the last few weeks her health has deteriorated to the point where her situation is very serious."

Obama is canceling Thursday events in Wisconsin and Iowa, replacing them with one in Indianapolis before heading to Hawaii. Michelle Obama will take his place at rallies in Ohio and he will resume campaigning on Saturday.

The NY Times reports that there's an "element of risk" with Obama's decision to leave the trail: "Mr. Obama is running ahead in every national poll, but his lead in some recent polls is not large. But Mr. Obama has little family left. His father and mother are dead, along with his grandfather, Stanley Dunham. His grandmother raised him for many years, while his mother lived in Indonesia." Earlier this year, Obama mentioned his grandmother in his speech about race and USA Today said she was a trailblazer in her own right.

Photograph of Barack Obama, at his high school graduation in 1979, with his grandparents Madelyn and Stanley Dunham