First lady asked Santa to help get Obama to Hawaii

HONOLULU (AP) ? Michelle Obama was looking for help from more than just House Republicans so her husband could make it to Hawaii in time for Christmas.

“We were all praying and praying, and asking Santa, and the tooth fairy, and every fairy they could think of,” the first lady said Saturday. She said their children prayed as well that the president “would be able to be with us.”

President Barack Obama eventually made it to Hawaii, about a week late, and only after Congress resolved its stalemate over extending expiring payroll tax cuts.

With the tense tax standoff behind him, the president has eased into vacation mode since arriving on the island of Oahu Friday night, spending a low-key Christmas Eve out of the spotlight.

Obama skipped his normal early morning gym workout Saturday, opting to spend time at the multimillion-dollar vacation home his family rents in the Kailua Beach area, near Honolulu. He headed to the golf course later in the day.

The first lady, meanwhile, got into the Christmas spirit by helping track Santa for NORAD. The North American Aerospace Defense Command has been telling anxious children about Santa’s whereabouts every year since 1955.

The White House said Mrs. Obama answered several calls from children around the country who wanted to know how close Santa was to their homes. During one conversation, she divulged how she and her daughters sought Santa’s help in bringing the president to Hawaii.

The Obamas were to spend Christmas Eve at home with a close circle of family and friends that typically joins the president for his annual Hawaiian vacation. They include Obama’s sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, who lives in the state with her family, and several friends the president has known since high school.

Earlier in the week, it looked as though the president’s annual December trip to the state where he was born and mostly raised might not happen.

The president pledged to stay in Washington until a deal on extending the payroll tax cuts was reached. When his planned Dec. 17 departure date arrived without a deal, the White House wouldn’t say if or when Obama might leave.

A deal was finalized Friday morning. Hours later, the president boarded Air Force One for Hawaii to meet his wife and daughters, who traveled ahead of him.

Obama’s first order of business when he arrived was taking his wife out to dinner. The couple joined a few friends at Morimoto restaurant, one of their favorite dining spots on the island of Oahu.

The president has no public events planned in Hawaii. A small group of advisers accompanied him to brief him on domestic and international developments.

The Obamas are expected to return to Washington shortly after New Year’s Day.