Happy Birthday, Mr. President


President Barack Obama (R) walks on stage at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago, Illinios, Aug. 3, 2011, as Herbie Hancock (L), members of the band OkGo (C), Jennifer Hudson (3rd R) and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (2nd R) sing "happy birthday" to him.


Jim Watson

Today Barack Obama turns 51, amid one of the ugliest election campaigns in recent memory. He is fighting for his political life, locked in a dead heat with his Republican challenger, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

For weeks the Obama campaign has been seeking to capitalize on the date, offering chances to be flown in to Chicago for a birthday party with the Obama family to anyone who will donate $3 or more to the reelection effort. Larger donors, who can make the trip on their own dime, will, presumably, get in automatically. The party will take place next weekend, in the Obamas’ South Side home.

Adorable photos of the president in earlier and, perhaps happier times, blowing out candles on a cake with his two small daughters, have gone out to a wide audience.

The Republican National Committee sent a cake to the White House, decorated with frosting letters stating, “You didn’t bake this.” The words were a reference to a simmering controversy caused by an Obama statement to business owners that, given the support from infrastructure, their success was not entirely their own. “You didn’t build that,” he said, referring to roads, bridges, and other structures put in place by the government. The speech, given in late July, set off a storm of protest from Romney operatives who claimed it meant that Obama was scornful of entrepreneurs.

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The president and his family will take a break from the grueling campaign to spend some quiet time at Camp David.

It may be the last respite for awhile. As the campaign enters its final three months, things are heating up. Attack ads abound on both sides, and the money race will take a toll on both candidates.

Romney continues to raise record amounts, and Obama has been sending out alarm calls to all and sundry, warning that his days in office could be numbered if donors do not step up and help offset the Republican advantage.

Super PACs supporting both candidates are throwing millions of dollars into the fray, producing a whole lot of smoke, but not a lot of fire so far.

Have an extra piece of cake, Mr. President. You’ll need the strength.