DALLAS – The first couple wanted to celebrate Laura Bush's 56th birthday Monday "quietly and privately," their spokesman said, but 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's [near] Election Day, you have to spend it on the road," Bush said.
If the first lady longed for a different lifestyle, she didn't let on.
"It's just a fact of my life," she said in an Associated Press interview, 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."
Asked whether the Bushes planned a party, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the couple "tend to celebrate these things quietly and privately."
The president bought his wife a gift, but Fleischer wouldn't say what it was. "That's super-duper top-secret information," Fleischer said.
Mrs. Bush took the singing in stride, waving in thanks to her audiences.
"Very few people in the history of our country will have been serenaded by as many people on one day as perhaps will happen today," Fleischer said. But, he added, "Out of courtesy and respect for Mrs. Bush, [the president] may not sing himself."
The same no-plans plan goes for the Bushes' silver wedding anniversary on Election Day.
Bush was trying to rustle up some Republican congressional leaders and their wives for a small dinner and returns-watching party at the White House. On the guest list: House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Senate Republican leader Trent Lott, Republican National Committee Chairman Mark Racicot and Sen. Bill Frist and Rep. Tom Davis, the leaders of the GOP's Senate and House campaign committees.