Sunday, September 9, 2012

Diner Drop-By: Biden & The Buckeye Bikers

The Vice President gets cozy with 'The Shaddowmen' at Cruisers Diner...
It's been a very intimate weekend of wooing voters for the Obama campaign. While President Obama was in Florida on Sunday getting hoisted aloft by a power-liftin' pizza maker, the ice cream-loving Vice President Joe Biden got cozy with a gang of bikers in an Ohio diner. The woman in the photo above, is part of a group that goes by the name "The Shaddowmen," and she is not actually sitting in the Veep's lap, but it sure looks like it. The moment was captured at Cruisers Diner, a 50's style joint just off highway 32 in Seaman, Ohio.

"I know who runs the show," the Veep was heard telling the bikers.

The Veep declined an offer of fried pickles during his visit, spending his time schmoozing with delighted patrons rather than eating. He was accompanied by former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland.

The Veep also campaigned in Ohio on Saturday, and his evening was spent with a crowd that enjoys fast rides, too: He visited former astronaut and now Sen. John Glenn and his wife Annie in Columbus, according to this White House photo. Strickland and Biden's sister, Valerie Owens Biden, were also on hand.

Cruisers Diner is at 155 Stern Drive, Seaman, OH 45679. Phone: 937-386-3330.

*Top photo by Carolyn Kaster/AP; second by White House

Florida Bus Tour: President Obama Gets A Lift At 'Big Apple Pizza & Pasta Italian Restaurant'

Power-lifting pizza maker gets Secret Service clearance to pick up President...
Making Sunday's second off-the-record stop during his bus trip through Florida, President Obama dropped by Big Apple Pizza & Pasta Italian Restaurant in Fort Pierce, arriving at 2:55 PM. The President got a special greeting from muscle-bound owner Scott Van Duzen, who lifted him up in a bear hug as about ten patrons--and members of the press corps--watched. Yes, there was Secret Service clearance for the special greeting.

"Scott, what's going on man," the President shouted as he entered. "Scott, let me tell you, you are like the biggest pizza shop owner I've ever seen."

Van Duzer, 46, stands 6'3 and weighs 260 pounds. A resident of nearby Port St. Lucie, he can bench press 350 pounds, he said. He also happens to be a Republican who voted for Candidate Obama in '08, when he won the Sunshine State.

"Everybody look at these guns," the President said, pointing to Van Duzer's monstrous pectoral muscles. "If I eat your pizza will I look like that?"

The President is 6’1, and weighed 176 pounds at his last physical. He's described himself as "skinny but tough."

After Van Duzer finished lifting the President, he was still in awe.

"Look at that!" the President exclaimed. "Man are you a powerlifter or what?"

Van Duzer then gave the President a tour of the restaurant, which he said is the only place he's worked since he was 16 years old. His family owns thirteen outlets across Florida.

The President spoke to the power-lifter about his work getting blood donations, for which Van Duzer has received commendations from the White House and the Surgeon General's office, which were hanging on a wall of the wood-paneled eatery.

"One of the reasons that we wanted to stop by is that Scott has been doing unbelievable work out of this pizza shop in promoting the importance of donating blood," President Obama told the press corps after his tour.

"And so he has set some records here in Florida. He has received commendations from the White House, the surgeon general, he has galvanized and mobilized the local community and he's educating kids and folks all across the country on this issue. So here's an example of somebody who is doing well but he's also giving back. So we just want to say how proud we are of him."

"I still wonder how he got these biceps, but what we know is that the guy's just got a big heart along with big pecs. So we're very proud of him and we just want to say thank you for all the great work."

The President then went to work in the dining room, speaking to the customers on hand while Van Duzer, meantime, spoke to the press. He said he got word that the President was coming 40 minutes before his arrival and rushed from the driving range--wearing grey workout shorts and a grey t-shirt. He described himself as "a big political person, watch the news" and said he was "just overcome with excitement," which led to him lifting the President of the United States off the ground. He plans to vote for the President in November.

"I don't vote party line, I vote who I feel comfortable with, and I do feel extremely comfortable with him," Van Duzer said. That's music to the campaign's collective ears.

Of the Secret Service agents possibly flipping out over Van Duzer lifting the President, he said: "He said I was alright as long as I didn’t take him away."

The President, meantime, schmoozed with an elderly couple siting at a table, Carolyn Bilotta Mcneil and her husband Jerry McNeil. Asked by the President how long they'd been married, Mrs. McNeil responded "51 years."

"You're a wonderful couple," the President said, and just as he did over breakfast, he said he and his wife have "been married 20 years. Our anniversary coming up in October."

Then he went to next table, where a young couple, Jorge Ambriz and Crystal Luna, sat.

"You guys married? Boyfriend and girlfriend?" the President asked. "Oops, I didn't mean to put any pressure on you."

The President has inserted marriage advice into the most recent version of his stump speech, advising young men to "marry up."

The President was back in his tour bus and on the road at 3:13 PM; by 3:36 PM he'd arrived at the OFA field office in Port St. Lucie, where he answered the phone with volunteers. (Above: A photo tweeted by the campaign)

The President ends his two-day bus tour today, and returns to Washington in the evening. CLICK HERE for links to all posts about his food stops.

The Big Apple Pasta & Pizza Restaurant the President visited is at 2311 S. 35TH ST, Fort Pierce, FL, 34981-5511 Phone: 772-466-8303.

President Obama Has Breakfast With Seniors At Ossorio Bakery & Café in Cocoa Village, Florida

"This is the closest to like a normal morning that I've had," President says while enjoying a cheddar omelet with four strangers during two-day bus trip...
President Obama on Sunday kicked off the second day of his bus tour through central Florida with a breakfast at Ossorio Bakery & Café in Cocoa. The President will discuss Medicare during the day's two rallies in the crucial swing state, and after arriving at 10:11 AM, he dined with two couples handpicked by the campaign to spotlight senior issues: Gerry Clark, a retired minister, and his wife, Jan, a retired nurse. The second couple was John Hill, retired from the retail industry, and his wife, Shirley, who worked as a stay at home mom and a travel agent before retiring. (Above, a photo tweeted by a campaign aide)

The President's breakfast was a cheddar omelet, a side of bacon and baguette toast ($5.5) a cinnamon roll ($4.50) and a bottle of Tropicana orange juice ($2.12) according to Chris Cobb, 21, the waiter who took the historic order, for which the President paid cash. He treated the two couples he dined with Cobb said, but paid on two separate bills, and left a "good" tip.

The restaurant staff, who took photos with the President after he ate, was thrilled, but disappointed that he didn't order the coffee, Cobb said: "Coffee is our thing. We roast our own beans." Owner Graeme Ossorio was at home in Naples during the President's visit; Secret Service showed up twenty minutes ahead of the President's arrival, Cobb said.

As he placed his order, the President quizzed Cobb about his personal life. After being told the Brevard Community College student is studying to be an engineer, the President was pleased.

"We need engineers," President Obama said.

Cobb, who grew up in nearby Rockledge, has worked at the café for four years, and is a member of the crucial youth bloc the President's campaign is aggressively wooing, but he was very calm about the special visit. Asked if he's voting for Mr. Obama, Cobb responded that he's not sure.

"I don't really follow politics," Cobb said.

As he dined with his guests, Gerry and Jan Clark told the President that they've been married for 57 years, and he mentioned his upcoming twentieth wedding anniversary in October, and spoke glowingly about First lady Michelle Obama's parenting skills.

"The reason she's so effective is that she's the most honest person I know," President Obama said. "I've never seen her lie, not even to our kids."

The President has been continuously on the road since September 1 when he started his Road to Charlotte tour. But he described the First Family's "nightly" dinner-table gatherings, telling his guests that these give his daughters "space to talk to you every day, even if they don't have a lot to say."

Despite the President's constant travel, the myth of nightly First Family dinners is one being continuously promoted by the Campaign in an effort to show that the Obamas are akin to every other middle class family. But just minutes before he sat down to eat, the President pointed to the fact that he's constantly on the campaign trail.

"This is the closest to like a normal morning that I've had," the President said as he greeted a different table of diners. "It's a lot of fun."

Meeting a Romney supporter...
That comment came as the President worked the café's outdoor patio before heading in to his photo-op breakfast. He won the state in '08, but during the outdoor eat n' greet, he came face-to-face with a Romney supporter as he stopped by a five-top with four elderly men and one woman (above).

"I'm a Romney supporter," Bill Terrell, of Jay, Fla., told the President.

"That's okay," he responded. "Is this a regular thing for you guys?"

"Every day," said Terrell.

"Every day? You got the life now," President Obama said.

One of the men, Franco diBello, 81, greeted the President in Italian, hailing him with "Bienvenido." DiBello told pool he moved to Rockledge from near Salerno, Italy.

After the President moved on to the next table, Terrell told pool he's still voting for Romney. Mr. Obama, he said, "is a personable, nice man." But: "I don't think he's gonna be able to get the economy going, and Romney will."

While on the patio, the President signed a card for teacher Cheryl Turner of Melbourne. It read "To Mrs. Turner's Class--Dream Big Dreams!" above his signature (above: Turner holds the card up).

At another outdoor table, the President reprised a joke he made during a breakfast stop in Boulder, Colorado last Sunday. Told by a woman diner that she was at his inauguration, the President repeated what he's said during the same conversation in Boulder.

"It was cold that time," President Obama said. "It's going to be warmer this time."

He wowed the group with what pool called "a long and detailed story" about what it's like to live in Chicago in the winter, which included an anecdote about turning on his car to warm up in the driveway while going back indoors.

The President departed the café at 11:07 AM, heading to his first rally of the day, at the Charles & Ruth Clemente Center in Melbourne. His afternoon rally is at the West Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach.

On Saturday, the first day of his bus tour, the President had two foodie stops: He dropped in at Gator's Dockside in Orlando for a Bud Light and photo ops. Mid-day, he ordered Cuban sandwiches to go during a visit to the West Tampa Sandwich Shop in Tampa.

The bios of the President's guests, from the campaign:

Gerry and Jan Clark
Gerry Clark is a retired minister and his wife, Jan, is a retired nurse. Having worked in health care for much of her life, Jan worries about how seniors like herself would be able to get the health care that they need should Medicare become voucherized. The Clarks say that as senior citizens, it is scary to think that despite having worked hard their entire lives, they could be forced to choose between paying their medical bills and their everyday expenses.

John and Shirley Hill

After a long career, John Hill retired from the retail industry in 1999. His wife, Shirley worked as a stay at home mom for many years. She also worked as a travel agent until she retired in the mid-1990s. Shirley’s mother is 102 years old and lives with dementia. Her mother also requires round-the-clock health care that is paid for in part by Medicare. The Hills say that if Medicare were to be voucherized, they would face more than $100,000 in medical bills each year and wouldn’t be able to take care of Shirley’s mother.

Ossorio Bakery & Café is located at 316 Brevard Avenue, Cocoa, FL, 32922. Phone: 321- 639-2423.

*Top photo by Jen Psaki, the President's traveling press secretary; others by pool

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Beer And A Birth Certificate Joke During President Obama's Visit To 'Gator's Dockside' In Orlando

The President hops off Ground Force One to woo locals, and has plenty of birthday fun at a family sports bar...
In central Florida on Saturday afternoon to continue his post-Convention victory lap with a two-day bus tour, President Obama cracked cute about his birth certificate during an off the record stop at Gator's Dockside in Orlando, arriving at 6:51 PM and spending more than an hour wooing voters. Doing the 'gator chop' with his hands as he entered, the President got huge cheers from the crowd in the family friendly sports bar, which boasts 15 chicken wing sauces and 19" flat screen TVs. The beer-loving President sidled up to the bar and immediately ordered a pint before wading into the packed crowd to chat up voters in the crucial swing state.

A Gator's employee confirmed to Obama Foodorama that the President's brew was Bud Light, his usual choice for sudsy campaign stops.

At a table filled with ten members of an Orlando family, the President was told by the mother that her six-year-old child, Andre Wupperman, was born in Hawaii. Lighting up, the President flashed the blond-haired boy the shaka sign, which the youngster and others at the table returned.

"You were born in Hawaii? You have a birth certificate?" The President said, and the table burst into laughter.

Long the subject of controversy from Republican conspiracy theorists who claim Mr. Obama was not born in America, the President's birth certificate was once again national news two weeks ago when Mitt Romney mentioned it during a campaign stop in Michigan. The Obama camp blasted Romney, and also took to Twitter to respond, posting a link to Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA video, as well as offering its $22.50 'Made in the USA' mug for sale, which features a photo of the President's birth certificate on one side.

Wupperman celebrates his birthday next week, and there was another birthday that got Presidential attention at Gator's: Sorina Terrell, who told pool only that she's "in my 30s." The President led the crowd in singing Happy Birthday. Terrell's daughter, 3 1/2-year-old Natalia Terrell, sang the national anthem for the President, who leaned down so he could hear above the noise in the bar.

"Awesome!" the President proclaimed. "Outstanding rendition of the Star Spangled Banner!"

When the President asked the child "how old are you?," Natalia held up three fingers. The crowd cheered.

The President moved through the packed restaurant--pool estimated 120 patrons--going from table to table to shake hands and pose for photos, accompanied by personal aide Marvin Nicholson. He also posed for photos and shook hands with staff. (Above: Doing the 'Gator Chop')

The drop-by followed the President's rally in Kissimmee, held in the Civic Center, his second rally of the day. Earlier on Saturday, the President dropped by the West Tampa Sandwich shop in Tampa to mingle with locals and place a large to-go order for Cuban sandwiches.

The President's two-day bus tour through Florida's crucial central corridor along the 1-40 was specifically designed to give him the chance to make a personal appeal to locals, said Campaign spokesman Jen Psaki. Mr. Obama took Florida in '08, but it is no longer a sure bet, and Romney campaigned there two days after the GOP convention.

"The President absolutely loves bus tours because you’re not getting on and off of a plane. You're actually spending time in the state," Psaki said.

And choosing the Sunshine State swing was a no brainer for other reasons: "Voters can register until October 9th in Florida," Psaki said, not mentioning the current controversy over voter IDs.

"And in the state, we've been outspent by Republicans and the Republican super PACs by about $10 million," Psaki said.

Presidential stops via bus are a great way to get loads of free advertising from local media.  Visiting Gator's, a chain restaurant, was a bit of a departure for the President: His advance team usually chooses smaller, family owned businesses. Gator's has 17 outlets scattered across Florida.

The President's motorcade was rolling at 8:10 PM, heading for the Westin Imagine hotel in Orlando, where he will spend the night before continuing his bus tour through Florida on Sunday. In the morning, the President will speak at the Charles & Ruth Clemente Center in Melbourne, and in the afternoon he holds a rally at the West Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach.

The President returns to the White House on Sunday night. He travels to New York, Nevada, and Colorado in the week ahead.

The Gator's Dockside the President visited is at 5142 Dr. Phillips Blvd., Orlando, FL 32819. Phone: 407-770-6049.

*Pool photos

An Introduction to Mitt Romney

A fun to watch video about the character, values and leadership of our next U.S. President, Mitt Romney! The best is yet to come! Romney/Ryan2012

Vice President Joe Biden, King Of Dairy Queen

Campaigning in Ohio, the Veep stops for his favorite treat...
"I don't think there's an ice cream parlor in any town that I've been in throughout the tens of thousands of miles I've traveled that I [haven't] hit one time or another," Vice President Joe Biden announced this week. He indulged in his favorite pastime again on Saturday, making a stop at the Dairy Queen in Nelsonville, Ohio, as he whirled through the battleground state on a campaign tour.

Arriving in the late afternoon, the Veep strode to the counter and ordered three vanilla-chocolate swirl cones, two mediums and one small; he was accompanied by his sister, Valerie Biden Owens, and by former Governor Ted Strickland, a national campaign co-chair.

"Man I can eat a hamburger, too," said the Vice President, but settled for just his frozen treat.

Biden and his companions raised their cones for a toast before digging in: "Here's to Nelsonville," said Strickland. The Veep had the smaller cone.

The tab was $5.17, and Biden paid with a $20 bill, giving the lucky fellow at the counter $2 of his change back as a tip.

After, he worked the Dairy Queen, greeting families and kids. Per the campaign, the franchise is owned by Cliff Warren and wife Robin, and it's been in the family since 1969. The Vice Presdient went behind the counter to pose for photos with staff before departing for a campaign event scheduled for the nearby town of Athens.

President Obama, meanwhile, was in Florida, enjoying his own favorite campaign trail treats: Meaty sandwiches and beer.

*Pool photo

Florida Bus Tour: President Obama Orders The Honey Cuban At 'West Tampa Sandwich Shop'

Wooing voters, President chooses a sandwich the city wants to designate as an official "cultural asset"...
In central Florida on Saturday afternoon to continue his post-Convention victory lap with a two-day bus tour, President Obama made a surprise visit to the West Tampa Sandwich Shop. He spent about 45 minutes chatting and posing for photos after placing a large to-go order for five of the house's specialty sandwiches, the iconic triple-meat and cheese Cuban sandwich. The President himself had the more elaborate and sweet Honey Cuban, on the advice of patrons and owner Willy Barionuevo, a Cuban immigrant who has owned the very popular joint on North Armenia Avenue for twenty years.

The President rolled in aboard Ground Force One at 1:40 PM after working up an appetite at a huge rally at St. Petersburg College in Seminole, where he was introduced by former Governor Charlie Christ.

"Hello everybody!" President Obama crowed as he entered to cheers. "I'm ready to eat!"

Standing by the counter, clad in, the President huddled with Barionuevo for menu advice, according to employee Maria Hernandez, who has worked there from the start.

"What are your specialty sides?" President Obama asked, and told Barionuevo he'd like "whatever else you think will make for an outstanding lunch."

The small crowd of patrons listening in shouted out that the President's own sandwich should be the Honey Cuban: The shops bills itself as "Home of the ORIGINAL Honey Cuban." Demonstrating his ability to respond to voter concerns, Mr. Obama complied.

"The President took it all the way," Hernandez said of his sandwich.

The standard Cuban is ham, roast pork, salami and Swiss cheese, topped with mustard and pickle on Cuban bread, then hot pressed. A Honey Cuban has the addition of butter and honey, and the President also added mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato. The President's sandwich was a Large, and cost $5.08 with tax, Hernandez said.

The President also ordered a bunch of empanadas--small meat pies--which are "very popular," Hernandez said. The President's beverage was cafe con leche.

"I gotta pay for all this," the President insisted, though Barionuevo told him it was on the house. He paid cash despite repeated protests.

"He left a very good tip," Hernandez said, and also posed for photos with the employees. "He was simple, a very nice person. Everybody was thrilled."

Mr. Obama's visit was the first from a sitting president to the shop, Hernandez said. The city of Tampa is considering making the Cuban its official sandwich, at the urging of the city's Citizens Advisory Committee on Cultural Assets, so perhaps the presidential order will add gravitas to the effort.

Hernandez is also a Cuban immigrant, and discussed the President's visit using a mixture of Spanish and English; she'll be voting for Mr. Obama, she said. The shop's regular patrons come from many ethnic backgrounds, she said, in addition to Cubans. "There are a lot of Italians, too."

As the President waited for his order, he worked the room, going from table to table. Secret Service had arrived fifteen minutes ahead of his visit to lock the place down and screen the diners, Hernandez said, which included leading dogs through the shop, and standing by as the to-go order was prepared.

"Hey man, what's your name?" the President said as he shook hands with a young couple seated a a table, adding "Hi pretty lady" as he greeted the female half.

Dan Gemmell, 63, a retried Army major, sat with his German wife Maria, according to pool, and announced that he's a coveted undecided voter, though he chose Mr. Obama in '08. Why the change of heart now?

"I'm a Roman Catholic," Gemmell said. "Overall I think he's a great guy. I just have trouble with some of his issues, the birth control and gay marriage thing."

Meanwhile, the President, who frequently discusses his own graying hair, had stopped to pat the head of a young boy with a Mohawk.

"I like that hair," he said. The boy's mother told the President "I support you 100 percent" and the President spun to address his press pool.

"You hear that people?" he called out. "Anyone taking notes?"

The President's two-day bus tour through Florida's crucial central corridor along the 1-40 was specifically designed to give him the chance to make a personal appeal to locals, said Campaign spokesman Jen Psaki. Mr. Obama took Florida in '08, but it is no longer a sure bet, and Mitt Romney campaigned there two days after the GOP convention.

"The President absolutely loves bus tours because you’re not getting on and off of a plane. You're actually spending time in the state," Psaki said.

And choosing the Sunshine State swing was a no brainer for other reasons: "Voters can register until October 9th in Florida," Psaki said, not mentioning the current controversy over voter IDs.

"And in the state, we've been outspent by Republicans and the Republican super PACs by about $10 million," Psaki said. Presidential stops via bus are a great way to get loads of free advertising from local media.

Outside the shop, the President greeted a happy crowd gathered behind a ropeline before climbing back aboard his huge bus, heading for Kissimmee for another campaign rally at the Civic Center. His Florida bus tour continues on Sunday.

Info: West Tampa Sandwich Shop is at 3904 North Armenia Avenue Tampa, FL, 33607. Phone: (813) 873-7104.

*Sandwich photo courtesy of West Tampa Sandwich Shop; second photo by Obama for America; others by pool