WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama is heading home to Chicago to celebrate his 49th birthday on Wednesday.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday that Obama's birthday plans include having dinner with friends there and spending the night in his own house in the city's Hyde Park neighborhood.
Obama hasn't shied away from talking about his birthday, noting that his hair is getting more gray and his metabolism is slowing down as another year passes. Gibbs says that while there's no doubt that the presidency comes with enormous physical and mental strain, Obama "greatly enjoys" the job.
Obama is traveling to Chicago Wednesday and Thursday to tour an auto plant and attend Democratic fundraisers, returning Thursday night to Washington.
He won't, however, be with his family, spending his birthday instead as a bachelor.
First lady Michelle Obama is taking their youngest daughter, Sasha, to Spain this week and their other daughter, Malia, is away at camp. Gibbs demurred when asked if it was a source of Obama family tension that the president was celebrating his birthday without them.
"They'll all be back together soon," the press secretary said diplomatically.
Meanwhile, the president's birthday — though a year shy of the Big 50 milestone — is being used in this election year as a prime fundraising opportunity for Democratic candidates and party organizations, through mailings, e-mails, parties and other birthday-themed outreach.