On Midwest Bus Trip, President Obama Charms, Hugs and Swigs

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Susan Walsh / AP

President Barack Obama speaks at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pa., Friday, July 6, 2012.

Pittsburgh

On the campaign trail, it’s good to be President–and not just because your bus gets to run red lights and has all the equipment you need to watch Wimbledon or run a war. It’s good because Americans respond, almost instinctively, to the importance of your office. “I’ve been coming here my whole life,” said Julia Konieczny, a 19-year-old sitting at a corner table at the Kozy Corners diner in Oak Harbor, Ohio, on Thursday. “But this is the coolest thing that has ever happened—ever.”

She was talking about the fact that Barack Obama was about to walk in—“Everybody just pretend like I’m not here,” he joked–and sit down to eat a cheeseburger and fries. After meeting the president, Konieczny wiped her eyes. She said her grandmother, who co-owned the diner, had started to cry across the room. “I think my grandfather is having a hard time too,” she added.

Even the local press feels the charge. A few feet away, Andy Ouriel, a reporter with the local Sandusky Register, a 22,000-circulation paper, talked about how he wrote personal letters to Obama, and columns in his paper, requesting the presidential visit that was about to happen. No President had come to Sandusky since Harry Truman on a whistle-stop tour in 1948, and Obama was going be distributing ice cream downtown. “Is that [White House Press Secretary] Jay Carney?” Konieczny asked her friend, pointing to a man who has just entered a side door. It was. “Told you it was Jay Carney,” she continued, “because he has adorable glasses.”

Obama, who long ago learned the charms of celebrity, knows how to parlay this attention. Over a two-day bus tour through Ohio and Pennsylvania, which brought him to two diners, a bakery, a fruit stand and a bar, he charmed, hugged, chatted, swigged, chewed, posed and quipped with the locals, hoping to transform the excitement about his office into votes for his reelection.

(PHOTOS: Political Pictures of the Week, June 30 – July 6)

For dozens of miles, locals came out of their homes, in stifling heat, often without shirts on, women in just their bathing suits, to line the state roads and wave to his motorcade. When he met elderly couples, he would ask how long they had been together, ask for their secret, delivering his own punch line: “Just do whatever she tells you to.” When he saw groups of locals sitting together, he would call them “troublemakers.” When encountering teenage boys, he asked what sport they played.

He asked hundreds of adults their names, and dozens of children their ages. “It’s nice to meet you,” he would say, over and over. “Hi, how are you?” He squeezed the thigh of a baby, signed the sketchbook of a young girl with the message “Dream Big Dreams,” and attempted to buy peaches and cookies for his traveling press corps. (The offers were declined.) “Let me tell you, first of all, I love nurses,” Obama said, after meeting one. “Can I tell you? You look great. This is a good looking woman.”

In Sandusky, Ohio, a weeping woman, Stephanie Miller, whose sister had died of cancer after being denied insurance, hugged him on the rope line. “I thanked him for the getting the Affordable Health Act passed,” she said later.

The trip was the first of many expected summer tours of swing states, where Obama will attempt to reintroduce himself to voters as a likable everyman, who connects with the hopes and agony of the country in ways that his rival Mitt Romney does not. While Romney vacationed with his family, a boat and a jet ski at his New Hampshire estate, the president told of his childhood vacations “on Greyhound buses,” when the ice machine at the Howard Johnsons “was like a big deal.”

Just as the effects of his charm was evident, the challenge ahead for Obama was easy to find in the crowds. Raymond Millard, a warehouse manager, was nursing a Bud Light at Ziggy’s bar in Amherst, Ohio, when the President showed up. He said his vote was up for grabs in November. “I’m a lifelong Democrat,” he said, “but I don’t know.”

The problem was not the President as much as the ungovernable city he had failed to return to order. “It’s all about just fighting each other,” Millard said of Washington, D.C. political culture. “I’m not disappointed in him particularly, just the way things are. It seems like there is a lot of fighting and everybody is for their side.”

(PHOTOS: Inside Barack Obama’s World)

A few stools away, Sabrina Schaeffer, 6, was eating dinner with her siblings. “This is the first time I’m going to meet someone important,” she proudly informed a reporter. Her brother Shane, 11, said he planned to ask the President if he had seen the YouTube video of Obama singing Call Me Maybe, a pop song of the moment, through the magic of editing. “You just go to YouTube and you look up ‘Barack Obama singing Call Me Maybe,’ ” he explained to a reporter, unaware of the footage.

Art Davis, the children’s stepfather and a disabled veteran of both the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, sat with them, saying he was undecided about the upcoming election, despite the urgings of Sabrina to vote Obama. “I am a supporter of Barack Obama, but right now I am a veteran and I am kind of concerned with one of the issues going on,” he said.

Minutes later, the President was at their table, asking his children’s names and ages. (Shane never did ask the President about the YouTube video.) But Davis did raise his concern about veterans issues, and the two men spoke for several minutes. Davis explained that a group he belonged to, Iraq And Afghanistan Veterans of America had been trying without success to get a meeting with Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs Eric Shinseki to discuss the backlog in disability claims.

The President called over his traveling aide, Marvin Nicholson, to get Davis’s contact information, and promised that one of his aides, Darienne Page, would follow up to address his concerns. Obama also gave Davis a presidential challenge coin, a symbolic military token designed to cement their relationship.

The President moved on, talking to another undecided voter who offered to vote for Obama if the President beat him in an arm wrestling contest. “No, I’ll play basketball for your vote,” Obama responded.

Davis showed off his new coin to friends, looking impressed. Asked if Obama had won his vote, Davis smiled sheepishly. “He’s getting there,” he said.

MORE: Barack Obama’s Occupy Wall Street Anthem

128 comments
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Alisaofs
Alisaofs

my

co-worker's ex-wife makes $72/hour on the computer. She has been fired

from work for six months but last month her check was $14488 just

working on the computer for a few hours. Here's the site to read more

http://LazyCash49.com

Len Simpson
Len Simpson

Who's minding the store while the cowpatties are being flung?

 Running the country is a 24/7 job.

Filips
Filips

what Pamela

said I didnt even know that some one can earn $7561 in four weeks on the

computer. have you seen this site http://www.LazyCash49.com

protank
protank

Barack Obama s the REAL Batman!!

Jackson
Jackson

my friend's

step-mother got paid $13979 the previous month. she is making cash on

the internet and moved in a $505500 house. All she did was get blessed

and make use of the tips reported on this website http://www.LazyCash49.com

Parger
Parger

just as Lois

explained I am inspired that a person able to earn $9362 in one month

on the computer. did you read this site http://www.LazyCash49.com

protank
protank

Liberals care far more about how much money Romney has than how much THEY have. Re-elect Obama and you wont have to worry about it. 23% bIack unemployment, 50% for young BIacks, 7 trllion, 38% poverty, 6 trillon in lost home sales, Yup he will be more flexable after the election, and so wll you!

Jackson
Jackson

like Marilyn

replied I am alarmed that a stay at home mom can profit $7279 in 1

month on the computer. did you see this link

http://www.LazyCash49.com

Swag
Swag

just as

Michelle answered I'm surprised that a student can earn $9893 in a few

weeks on the computer. did you read this link http://www.LazyCash49.com

James
James

what Marjorie answered I'm surprised that anybody can earn $5733 in a few

weeks on the computer. did you look at this website http://www.LazyCash49.com

Carol Dijkhuyzen
Carol Dijkhuyzen

I will spend even my wealth to re-elect this great compassionate President Obama..rather than Mitt the  Crook offshore Bain Romney Marcos!

dlf91642
dlf91642

Just more BS, funny he ask the people in one of the bars to turn off Fox because they were-not kind to him. Sounds like a liberal, if the liberals don't like it no-one else should, rules are for others but not the rule makee

radsenior
radsenior

President Obama working in the heat in front of crowds, while Romney works the Hampton's ritziest of 1%-ers. President Obama seeking the middle class vote fund raising while Romney goes to the Hamptons. One would guess some of the invited were of the same caliber as Romney who has multiple off-shore accounts to limit their tax burden sharing abilities. Some reports sites like Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Ireland, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland and Australia. Hiding money to keep from paying taxes is the mark of Romneyonics and saving taxes for the richest 1%-ers in America. Donor power alludes excesses on the grandest of scale. It has been written, "The reality is that markets promote efficiency, which in turn rewards scale,which in turn leads to a concentration of economic and therefore political power." It was further stated, "Implies a degree of organization or social purpose that is regularly offered as a cover for activities that amount to little more than the narrow, sometimes rapacious pursuit of self interest in ways that harm rather than benefit the greater population." Sadly, every political party has this knowledge of industry and effect their interpretation for their version to pinnacle. There must modifications, laws passed, that limit governmental overreach but keep in check power or influence of radical extremes from every quarter.

superlogi
superlogi

How can a buffoon charm anyone but a parasite?

53underscore3
53underscore3

What? 

Hmmm.  The stuporlogi Hate-O-Meter is now at 70% of the American people.

Go figure...

superlogi
superlogi

It is true that I haven't really cottoned to Marxists in my life.  Probably comes from being asked by a liberal to stop their multiplication in SE Asia over 40 years ago.  In fact, it's difficult for me to understand how anyone could worship one.  Perhaps you could enlighten me?

Steve0T
Steve0T

 exactly, how exactly is Rmoney going to charm the Teabaggers...

superlogi
superlogi

You keep changing the subject.  You need to focus.  The article isn't about Mitt. It's about your glorious leader, his buffoonery, mendacity and his ability to shuck and jive.

superlogi
superlogi

Given the idea of being progressively shaky or inherently stupid.  I'll take shaky every time.  

Steve0T
Steve0T

Your Parkinson's is showing, sport. You brought up half of those topics. And now you are whining about irrelevancies.

Typical hypocritical conservative.

superlogi
superlogi

Self-awareness? Marxism?  Limbaugh and Insannity?  Teabaggers?  The country's greatness?  Did you want to bring up any more irrelevancies?  Or, should we just go off on a tangent with these alone?

Steve0T
Steve0T

 lol, what a delicious lack of self-awareness. It's you that doesn't know what a Mar_xist  is. Ideologues like Limbaugh and Insannity spout that non-sense and you brainless Teabggers follow in order. 

You need to get a brain, first. This country did not become great because of im_beciles like you.

superlogi
superlogi

You don't even understand what an oligarch is.  You're living in the greatest country the world has every known and you would destroy it for Marxist security.  Get a life.  Oh, and you really need to focus.  Your deviance is unnerving.  

Steve0T
Steve0T

 Well, the way you have been whining and ranting about BO, it looks more like your daughter ended up with an African-American, sport. So don't project your inadequacies on me.

How is Rmoney friendly to self-reliance, personal responsibility and econ. freedom?? All he is going to do is prostrate himself in front of the Kochs and the Adelsons and let them run roughshod, removing all protections for the middle class. He will also bow before the religious nutbags. Look how he treated his OWN campaign worker, Richard Grennel, just because that scum Fisher was displeased.

Rmoney is a spineless coward who will bow before the biggest bully. And no one bullies better than the conservatives.

If you really want to save your family from enslavement, I suggest you stop being a cheap shill for Rmoney. He is going to give the keys of this country to the oligarchs. And your family will end up working as wage slaves for them.

superlogi
superlogi

You're confused, as usual.  What I want is to replace a self-absorbed Marxist with someone fundamentally friendly to self-reliance, personal responsibility and economic freedom, someone who won't enslave my children and grand children to economic and social mediocrity.  Apparently, you and your progressive buddies don't mind?

But, why the obsession with Mormonism?  Did your wife run off with one?  After all, in comparison, suggesting wine being turned into blood and bread to flesh really doesn't seem superior to believing in a magical planet.  And, of course, neither does the atheists belief he/she is at the top of the food chain.  I'd stay away from it if I were you.

Steve0T
Steve0T

I am focusing. You need to look at the bigger picture, something admittedly hard for Teabaggers. You are planning to replace BO with an outrageously dishonest liar who will sell this nation to the oligarchs.

The less said about his  belief in  supposedly magic underclothing and in  Kolob, the better.

paulejb
paulejb

Steve0T,

Ask Anderson Cooper.

Steve0T
Steve0T

Why, what do the two of you know, sport? 

Hollywooddeed
Hollywooddeed

 I know, right?  Willard is charming parasites and buffoons.

superlogi
superlogi

How can you charm a parasite by telling it, it's not going to continue to live on someone else's work.  You make no sense.  It appears you have what Barry describes as that "middle class attitude"?