President Barack Obama enjoyed seafood with his family Thursday night to celebrate his 55th birthday, and he blew out candles for the final time as US leader.

The first family went by motorcade to Fiola Mare, a highly rated Italian seafood restaurant on the Potomac Riverfront in Washington's fashionable Georgetown district.

Earlier, Obama enjoyed a birthday present that nearly matched his age: 54 per cent of respondents in the latest national survey approved of his job performance as president. It was the highest mark of his second term, which started in January 2013.

Obama leaves office on January 20, when the next president is sworn in. The chief contenders are Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, who so far have proven to be among the least popular major-party nominees in modern US history.

Even on his birthday, Obama, who has endorsed Clinton, could not avoid discussing the race to decide his successor.

During an afternoon press conference at the Pentagon, where he hoped to talk about national security issues, reporters raised charges leveled this week by Trump, a populist billionaire, that the November election could be rigged against him.

"Of course the elections will not be rigged. What does that mean?" Obama asked.

"If Mr Trump is suggesting there is a conspiracy theory that is being propagated across the country ... that's ridiculous, and I don't think anyone would take that seriously."

Later in the press conference, which ended only 80 minutes before the Obamas' dinner motorcade left the White House, one reporter tried to pose a second question.

"I hope it's not too long," the president replied, "because I'm going to be late for my birthday dinner."

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