Obama heading to So. Fla. for weekend getaway

President Obama to vacation with friends in West Palm Beach area

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President Barack Obama waves as he gets off Air Force One upon his arrival at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Honolulu, Hawaii, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013.

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama will spend the weekend in South Florida, relaxing with friends.

The White House said that President Obama would head to the West Palm Beach area on Friday, after a stop earlier in the day in Chicago, his hometown, to discuss economic proposals in his State of the Union address.

Spokesman Josh Earnest said Thursday that President Obama would spend a few days on Florida's Atlantic Coast relaxing with friends. No public events were scheduled.

"The president of the United States is the president of the United States 24 hours a day, and will fulfill his responsibilities as president even while he's getting some well-deserved downtime with some friends this weekend," Earnest told reporters traveling with President Obama. "I don't think the American people will begrudge him that."

President Obama's traditional Christmas vacation in his native Hawaii was interrupted last year as he negotiated with Congress to avoid a slate of automatic tax increases and spending cuts that could have hurt the economy.

The president spent Christmas in Hawaii with first lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha, but soon after returned to Washington to resume negotiations. The president flew back to the island state on New Year's Day, after a deal was reached, and returned to the White House with his family several days later.

Earnest did not mention Obama's family, which suggested that the first lady and their daughters would not join the president on vacation in a state he narrowly won on his way to re-election.

Mrs. Obama's office did not respond to a question about her plans for the weekend.

At an event Thursday at a school in suburban Atlanta, where President Obama talked about his proposal to provide preschool for every 4-year-old, he allowed that Malia could have plans of her own this weekend.

"Now, I do have to warn the parents who are here who still have young kids. They grow up to be, like, 5-10, and even if they're still nice to you, they basically don't have a lot of time for you during the weekends," the president said. "They have sleepovers and - dates. So all that early investment just leads them to go away."

President Obama often jokes about how tall Malia has grown - she's nearly as tall as her 6-foot-1 father - and how little time she has to spend with him now that she's a teenager.

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