- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 5, 2002

DALLAS There may be no worse timing for a political spouse than to have an early November birthday. That annual day in the sun is guaranteed to be overshadowed by the need to hustle for votes on Election Day. This year, Laura Bush may have it worst of all.
The first lady turned 56 yesterday, one day ahead of today's voting. And her 25th wedding anniversary with President Bush falls on Election Day.
With so much of her husband's attention riveted toward the outcome of the midterm elections, there's not much time left for special observances.
Over the weekend, the couple kept separate campaign schedules. They finally merged their itineraries Sunday evening in South Dakota, where the president, 56, beamed at her from the podium and informed his audience that his wife would be a year older the next day.
"I thought it would be wise to hook up with Laura the day before her birthday," Mr. Bush said, prompting hearty laughter and a spirited rendition of "Happy Birthday" from the crowd.
"That's your birthday gift," he joked.
She got that gift several times yesterday.
Although the first couple wanted to celebrate Mrs. Bush's birthday "quietly and privately," spokesman Ari Fleischer said, their audiences at campaign rallies didn't get the message: Thousands sang "Happy Birthday" from Iowa to Arkansas to Texas.
"I can't think of a better place to roll over in my bed and say to Laura, 'Happy birthday,'" the president told a cheering convention hall after the first rendition in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. They had spent the night at a modest hotel.
It happened again in Bentonville, Ark., and in Dallas, where they were again promoting Republican candidates.
"That's one of the prices you pay when you marry somebody in the political process, when your birthday is [near] Election Day, you have to spend it on the road," Mr. Bush said.
But if the first lady longed for anything different, there was no showing it.
"It's just a fact of my life," she told a reporter Sunday night, recalling the 1980 election, when her father-in-law, former President George Bush, was elected vice president on her birthday. "It makes for very exciting birthdays."
The president bought his wife a gift, but Mr. Fleischer wouldn't say what it was.
"That's super-duper top-secret information," he said.
The same no-plans plan goes for the Bushes' silver wedding anniversary. They were to vote early today at the Crawford, Texas, firehouse, near their ranch, then head back to Washington. Their evening agenda amounted to keeping tabs on the election returns.
Romantic it isn't. But as the first lady's spokeswoman, Alexia Poe, said, "At least they'll be watching them together," not always an easy feat for a first couple.
Mrs. Bush said the weekend may offer a chance for a joint birthday-anniversary celebration, with a stay at the presidential retreat at Camp David with a few close friends and family.
"When you get to be a certain age, you really don't care that much about celebrating your birthdays," she said. "Although the 25th anniversary is a milestone. I have to admit, though, it does seem like we just got married a few years ago."
Even with the relative dearth of big gestures, the relationship is by no means devoid of courting.
Previous Valentine's Days, for instance, have found Mr. Bush presenting his wife with a dozen roses or a bundle of tulips. She has reciprocated with heart-shaped sweets.


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