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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 7:32 p.m., Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Obama to decide in Hawai'i on presidential run

Associated Press

While spending time with family and friends this week in Hawai'i, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama will decide if he'll run for president in 2008, his sister said today.

"He's going to make his decision here and announce it to us. Then he's probably going to officially announce his decision once he returns," Maya Soetoro told The Associated Press.

Obama, D-Ill., who was born in Hawai'i and graduated from Honolulu's private Punahou School in 1979, is staying in a hotel on O'ahu with his family for the holidays and plans to spend a lot of time with his grandmother, said Soetoro, who teaches history and social studies at University Lab School.

She said her brother will stay in the Islands for another week and a half. He's due back in Washington the first week of January.

A possible contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, Obama, 45, hasn't scheduled any public events or interviews during his trip and instead will take a break from his busy schedule, play golf and basketball with old buddies and enjoy the ocean, Soetoro said.

"It's a much needed time for reflection. He's got to figure out what he's going to do," she said. "I think he's trying to reconnect with family and get away from the excessive demands of his schedule."

Soetoro said she's already discussed the pros and cons of running for president with her brother, but he hasn't indicated his decision yet.

Hawai'i has a reputation for allowing celebrities and famous people to have space while on the Islands — from Elvis Presley to recent visitors Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz.

Soetoro said a few people have asked Obama to pose for pictures and sign autographs, but most have left the senator alone.

"People in Hawai'i have been very respectful. They don't intrude," she said.

U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawai'i, said local Democrats are respecting his need to lie low. He said supporters have met and might purchase an ad while he's in town to show that they're behind Obama. A local group last week announced a formal effort to draft Obama for president.

Abercrombie said he believes Obama's roots in Hawai'i will influence the campaign if he runs.

"The diversity and aloha spirit will be important. Our diversity defines us rather than divides us. I think we'll be hearing that a lot," he said.

Obama, elected to the Senate in 2004, has said he is mulling a presidential bid and lining up staff should he decide to run.

In Washington, former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota said Obama has "almost unlimited potential."

Daschle said he believes Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., is the front-runner for his party's nomination, but several others, including Obama, could potentially beat her.

"His stock is still rising," Daschle said of Obama. "He's one of those rare individuals who has almost unlimited potential and seems to defy most of the laws of political gravity at this point."