President Barack Obama and daughter, Sasha, swim at Alligator Point in Panama City Beach, Florida, on Saturday (PHOTO CREDIT: White House/Pete Souza)
(CNN) – - The one really big question hanging over President Obama's weekend vacation to Panama City, Florida, now has an answer.
Will he or won't he dive into the water to send a message that the Gulf Coast is back?
The answer: He will, and sooner than expected.
"I think we're going to go tomorrow and as I just said Ed, I'm not going to let you guys take a picture of me with my shirt off," Obama jokingly told CNN Saturday. "You guys will tease me just like last time. I was on the front page ... People commenting."
But just hours later, a photo was published on the White House Flickr page showing a smiling President Obama and his daughter Sasha taking a dip in the Gulf waters off Alligator Point in Panama City Beach, Florida.
No reporters or press cameras were present for the swim, but the image will nonetheless send a message that the White House has sought to convey with the first family's trip: the Gulf Coast is open for business.
Obama caused a bit of a tabloid stir when he took off his shirt to reveal a muscular physique during trips to Hawaii during the 2008 presidential campaign and subsequent presidential transition. But some are less concerned about Obama ending up on magazine covers, and more worried about the White House sending the right message.
Panama City, Florida (CNN) – President Barack Obama told CNN Saturday that in defending the right of Muslims to build a community center and mosque near ground zero in a speech Friday night, he was "not commenting on the wisdom" of the project but trying to uphold the broader principle that the government should treat "everyone equal, regardless" of religion.
"In this country, we treat everybody equally and in accordance with the law, regardless of race, regardless of religion," Obama said after giving a speech on the Gulf Coast oil disaster in Panama City, Florida.
While speaking at a White House dinner celebrating the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, Obama threw his support behind a controversial proposal to build an Islamic center and mosque near New York's ground zero, saying Friday that "Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country."
UPDATED 5:45 p.m. ET: Deputy White House Press Secretary Bill Burton released the following statement on the proposed Islamic center and mosque near New York's ground zero.
"Just to be clear, the President is not backing off in any way from the comments he made last night. It is not his role as President to pass judgment on every local project. But it is his responsibility to stand up for the Constitutional principle of religious freedom and equal treatment for all Americans.
What he said last night, and reaffirmed today, is that If a church, a synagogue or a Hindu temple can be built on a site, you simply cannot deny that right to those who want to build a Mosque.
The World Trade Center site is hallowed ground, where 3000 Americans-Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Muslims were the victims of a cold-blooded massacre. We are still at war with the small band of terrorists who planned and executed that attack.
But that does not give government the right to deny law-abiding Americans of one faith the same rights you would accord anyone else."
President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama greet a crowd upon their arrival in Florida. (PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)
(Updated 2:20 p.m. ET)
Panama City, Florida (CNN) – On a visit to the Gulf Coast Saturday, President Barack Obama said that while the gushing undersea BP oil well had been capped, the administration remains committed to ensuring a full cleanup and recovery for those crippled by the disaster.
"I'm here to tell you our job is not finished and and we are not going anywhere until it is," Obama said after meeting with government and business leaders in Panama City, Florida.
"That's a message I wanted to come here and deliver directly to the people along the Gulf Coast," he said. "Because it's the men and women of this region who have felt the burden of this disaster, who have watched with anger and dismay as their livelihoods and way of life were threatened these past few months."
Obama arrived in Florida on Saturday, his fifth visit to the Gulf Coast since the start of the oil disaster, with his wife, Michelle, and daughter Sasha. He will spend the weekend on the coast in a trip intended to relay long-term support for economically devastated areas.
(CNN) - Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, was released from University of Chicago Medical Center Friday night after undergoing surgery to have a small tumor removed from his stomach.
"At approximately 7pm last night, Sen. Dick Durbin was discharged from University of Chicago Medical Center where he was recovering after having a small tumor removed." Durbin spokesman Joe Shoemaker said in statement to CNN. "Durbin expects to resume a light schedule in a few days and a full schedule next week."
The senior Illinois Senator underwent surgery Thursday to have a small gastro-intestinal stromal tumor (GIST) removed from his stomach.
According to Durbin's doctors, there was no evidence that the tumor had spread beyond the site from which it was removed.
Panama City, Florida (CNN) – In a boost for President Obama on a red-hot controversy, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist told CNN Saturday that he fully supports Obama's decision to back construction of an Islamic center and mosque near New York's ground zero.
"I think he's right - yeah," Crist, who was elected governor as a Republican but is now running for Senate as an independent candidate, told CNN. "We are a country in my view that stands for freedom of religion. You know, respect for others. I know there are sensitivities and I understand that, but I think Mayor Bloomberg is right and I think the President is right."
Crist offered his support in a brief interview as he waited for Obama to arrive at a U.S. Coast Guard station for a presidential visit aimed at boosting tourism in the Gulf region, which has suffered economically as a result of the BP oil spill – the worst in American history.
Editor's Note: In the final 100 days before Election Day, CNN has been profiling one race at random each day from among the nation's top 100 House races, which we've dubbed "The CNN 100." Read the full list here. Today's featured district is:
Pennsylvania 17 – Democratic Rep. Tim Holden is seeking a 9th term
Primary: May 18, 2010
Location: East-Central Pennsylvania
Days until Election Day: 80
(CNN) - Perhaps one of the more telling factors in how a campaign is doing might be how much cash it raises – and has at its disposal.
For state Sen. David Argall, the Republican running in Pennsylvania's 17th congressional race, cash flow is a big problem in his fight against incumbent Democratic Rep. Tim Holden.
Argall's campaign raised over $204,693 and had $28,929 cash on hand as of the end of June, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Holden, meanwhile, far outpaces his opponent - raising $938,827 in the same period and having $884,374 cash on hand.
(CNN) - Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston have reached an agreement over the custody of their son, the Associated Press reported Friday.
The custody agreement comes just weeks after the couple called off their re-engagement.
Under the agreement, Johnston gets visitation rights two days a week, while Palin gets primary physical custody of their son Tripp. The couple will share legal custody, Johnston's lawyer told the Associated Press.