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The president and his family woke up early Sunday to exchange gifts, the White House said, then had breakfast and sang Christmas carols at the multimillion-dollar house they are renting in Kailua Beach, near Honolulu.

Later in the morning, the Obamas made the short trip to the chapel at Marine Corps Base Hawaii for Christmas church services. The White House said the president and first lady Michelle Obama would return to the base later in the day to visit with service members and their families, as they have done in past years.

The president also called 10 service members stationed around the world on Christmas Eve. The White House said he thanked them for their service and the sacrifice of being away from their families at the holidays.


Callista Gingrich steps up presence on the trail

MOUNT PLEASANT — Newt Gingrich’s wife has stepped up her presence as he campaigns for the Republican presidential nomination, especially in Iowa, where social conservatives hold powerful sway.

While Callista Gingrich is a visible reminder of her twice-divorced husband’s past infidelity, she’s also a symbol of his newfound devotion to family.

Mr. Gingrich’s campaign is betting that anyone who doubts whether he truly has mended his ways need only look to his wife, who stands at his side, ramrod straight and smiling. She is being dispatched strategically and appears with Mr. Gingrich in a cheery Christmas ad, and the couple frequently hosts his-and-her book signings after campaign events.


Obama gets political uptick, but momentum fickle

President Obama has capped a bruising year by winning a tax-cut extension for millions of Americans, but his momentum may be hard to maintain in the coming election year.

The president’s victory in a tax fight with House Republicans overshadowed Washington’s deepening dysfunction and the slow progress of the economy on his watch.

He left Friday for Hawaii with the look of a president who was back in command of the political stage.

The lasting impression was of Mr. Obama presiding over a two-month extension of a payroll-tax cut after House Republicans caved on demands for a longer-lasting deal.

Yet on this issue, as on many, much work remains for Mr. Obama after the new year, just when voters begin choosing a Republican nominee to try to defeat him.

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