HONOLULU (AP) — Barack Obama's presidential campaign has taken him across the country and finally for the first time on Friday it brought him home to Hawaii for a week's vacation.
Obama's campaign plane arrived Friday, with 17 of his friends and family members filling the seats normally occupied by his traveling advisers. The band included his wife, Michelle, 10-year-old daughter Malia and 7-year-old daughter Sasha.
They were staying with friends and family on Oahu, where his sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, and 85-year-old grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, live. Obama's grandmother helped raise him, but Obama has said osteoporosis keeps her from traveling and instead she follows campaign coverage closely on CNN.
He told reporters Thursday that time with the family was worth ceding the campaign spotlight to Republican rival John McCain. The vacation was timed for the start of the Olympics when the country's attention would likely be diverted from politics anyway.
"I am going to see my grandma, who I haven't seen in almost 18, 19 months, and who's getting to the age that I want to make sure I am spending time with her on a consistent basis and so she can see her great-grandchildren," he said. "And I want to spend some time with those children as well.
"We had a very long primary, we had the longest primary in history, and so I can imagine folks need a break from politics," he said. "I think that the majority of people had been fed a constant stream of political chatter, and I am sure that having a couple of weeks off and enjoying the Olympics is probably what the doctor ordered for everybody."
Obama had a little work to do — he spoke at a welcome ceremony at Keehi Lagoon Beach Park upon his arrival and on Tuesday he was to headline a sold-out $2,300-per-person fundraiser.
"We're not here to politic," Obama told supporters gathered at the park. "I'm going to go body surfing at an undisclosed location. I'm going to see my tutu, my grandmother. I'm going to watch my girls play on the beach."
He talked some politics, promising to help address soaring food and gas prices that are hitting Hawaii especially hard because of increased shipping costs and thanking residents for supporting him in the caucus. He said he carries the "aloha spirit" with him on the campaign to help those in need. "It's that spirit that I'm convinced is what America is looking for right now," he said.
The events made Hawaii the 48th state that Obama has campaigned in, an extraordinary sweep for modern presidential campaigns that have focused on a smaller number of early primary states and general election battlegrounds. But the long primary campaign took him to almost every state — Arkansas and Alaska are the only two where he hasn't stumped for votes in person.
Obama planned to stay on Oahu until Aug. 15, and he promised the slimmed-down press corps that accompanied him on the flight over that he would introduce them to the island favorite treat of shave ice at some point during the stay. Campaign aides said the destination was chosen in part because it offers a secluded beach where he can relax with his family out of the public eye, and they are trying to avoid the pictures of him in his bathing suit that appeared in celebrity magazines after his last visit in December 2006.
The time away will also give Obama a chance for reflection on his running mate selection. He'll return from vacation with just nine days until the convention, a short window to announce his pick. He told reporters he'll be working on his convention speech while he's Hawaii.
Obama was born in Hawaii. His Kansas-born mother and Kenyan father met as students at the University of Hawaii.
His father left when he was a toddler, and his mother later remarried an Indonesian who moved the family to his home country when Obama was in elementary school. Obama returned to Hawaii without his mother after four years, lived with his grandparents in a modest apartment and got a scholarship to attend a prestigious private high school.