WASHINGTON, Aug 4 – US President Barack Obama turned 50 Thursday, marking the milestone at a moment of political peril after a damaging debt showdown with Republicans and as he plots his 2012 reelection bid.
Supporters sang “Happy Birthday” as Obama let off steam at several political fundraisers in his hometown of Chicago on Wednesday night after a ferocious month of Washington political combat.
“I could not have a better early birthday present than spending tonight with all of you,” he said, joking that he was expecting an email from a senior citizens group telling him to lobby President Obama over health care for the elderly.
He also told donors that his daughter Malia, 13, was coming home from summer camp on Thursday to celebrate his birthday, on a day when he has no public events on his schedule.
Obama, who has said his crisis-strewn two-and-a-half years in office have turned his hair gray, given him bags under the eyes and robbed him of youthful zest, mulled on the prospect of turning 50 in a recent interview.
“Obviously, I’ve gotten a little grayer since I took this job but otherwise, I feel pretty good,” he told National Public Radio, adding that his wife was helping him get over the hurdle of hitting the half century mark.
“Michelle, you know, says that… she still thinks I’m… cute, you know. And I guess that’s — that’s all that matters, isn’t it?”
One of the first with birthday wishes was Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who called Obama on Wednesday to also discuss talks with Washington on his country’s pending entry into the World Trade Organization.
Obama, born in Hawaii in August 1961, marks his birthday at a time when his job approval ratings have been dented by a perceived defeat to Republicans in a debt and deficit showdown.
He is also haunted by a stagnant economy and high unemployment that pose warning signs for his effort to convince voters in November 2012 that he deserves a second term in the White House.