First family misses president’s birthday

THURSDAY, AUG. 5, 2010

CHICAGO – Alone on his 49th birthday, President Barack Obama fled the empty White House mansion and headed for a more intimate celebration with longtime friends in his Chicago hometown.

Obama has been living a bachelor’s life for the past several days, with first lady Michelle Obama and daughter Sasha visiting Spain and daughter Malia spending the month away at an undisclosed camp.

Before leaving Washington on Wednesday afternoon with the family dog, Bo, Obama got a couple of presents he didn’t have to unwrap and which the White House described as being the highlight of his day: telephone calls from the women in his life.

Michelle Obama and Sasha phoned in their happy birthday wishes, followed by a lunchtime call from Malia.

As the presidential motorcade pulled closer to his house in Chicago’s Hyde Park area, neighbors lined the street to welcome him home with waves and signs, including “Happy 49th Birthday President Barack Obama” and “Happy Birthday Mr. President.”

Obama continued his birthday celebration over a leisurely dinner with friends, spending more than three hours at the graham elliot restaurant in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. His dinner companions included Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King.

Obama’s birthday – though a year short of the milestone 50 – also was viewed in this election year as a prime fundraising opportunity for Democrats, who fear losing their hold on both houses of Congress come November. E-mails, house parties and other forms of outreach sought to capitalize on Obama’s big day.

The Republican Party marked the occasion with a new website offering 11 different e-cards people can send Obama, including ones mocking the ethics problems of Democratic Reps. Charles Rangel of New York and Maxine Waters of California, and noting key Democratic election losses in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts.

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