CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – 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 on Monday, one day ahead of Tuesday'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,'' Bush said, prompting hearty laughter and a spirited rendition of "Happy Birthday'' from the crowd.
"That's your birthday gift,'' he joked.
He might have been right.
After spending Sunday night in Iowa, the Bushes were kicking off the first lady's birthday with a rally in Cedar Rapids before flying to others in St. Louis, Bentonville, Ark., and Dallas. They wouldn't land at their Texas ranch until well after suppertime, meaning no other plans Monday to mark Mrs. Bush's day.
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, George H.W. Bush, was elected vice president on her birthday. "It makes for very exciting birthdays.''
The same no-plans plan goes for the Bushes' silver wedding anniversary. They were to vote early Tuesday 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 first lady spokeswoman Alexia Poe said, "at least they'll be watching them together'' — not always an easy feat for a busy first couple.
And the lack of pomp and circumstance seems to fit not only the Bushes' schedules but their personalities as well. Aides say the couple aren't big on making a fuss over special occasions.
Mrs. Bush said the upcoming weekend may offer a chance for a joint birthday-anniversary celebration, with a stay at the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md., joined by 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 Bush presenting his wife with a dozen roses or a bundle of tulips. She has reciprocated with heart-shaped sweets.
As for the possible exchanging of birthday and anniversary gifts, aides to the Bushes were mum.