He may be vice president, but Joe Biden has clearly taken on the role of campaigner-in-chief for the Obama re-election effort. The loose-lipped V.P. hit the trail again today for a swing through Eastern Iowa, a key battleground in the 2012 presidential race.
In between campaign stops, Biden showed off his own, almost comical, brand of retail politics with a stop at the First Street Deli in Independence, reportedly causing quite a stir with the local clientele.
Des Moines Register reporter Jason Noble captured the madness in a hilarious White House pool report*:
As Biden entered to a round of applause and began greet a table of diners, a deli employee, Panda – “like the bear” – Schnepf shrieked from behind the counter, “Oh my word! Get a picture of that! That’s my grandchild! That’s my daughter!” referring to the people shaking hands and chatting with the vice president.
Biden cracked jokes with the diners and shook hands working slowly toward the lunch counter.
He sat down at a booth with three women, each of whom appeared to be from a different generation – perhaps a grandmother, mother and child. Standing up, he wrapped his arm around a teenage boy and chatted with two high-school age girls standing near him.
Biden wore a blue blazer and blue oxford shirt over khaki pants, although he removed the jacket during his visit to the diner.
At one point, he walked up to Peggy Magner, a middle-aged supporter wearing two Obama reelection buttons and said to her, “I love your smile.”
At 1:27 p.m. he ordered lunch. Accompanying him was Cathy Layton-Johnson, a campaign volunteer from Clinton, Iowa, who won a contest to eat lunch with the vice president after volunteering to knock doors on behalf of the campaign.
Layton-Johnson ordered several turkey sandwiches, while Biden ordered a turkey wrap with provolone cheese on a cheddar-jalapeno tortilla with yellow mustard.
He asked the press, assembled behind the counter, whether they would like anything. “I’m buying,” he said.
At the cash register, Biden ordered several pastries, and when a young boy approached, he pulled him up, sat him on the counter and handed him a cookie.
“I’m not going to get in trouble with your mum, am I?” Biden asked him.
The boy’s name is Alex Thompson. He’s 5, and from Independence.
Outside the restaurant, his mother, Terri Thompson, said, “I told him he was going to have to frame that cookie, he couldn’t eat it!”
Small groups of people gathered along 1st Street in Independence as the vice president’s motorcade passed through town, and several more remained on the blocks surrounding the diner afterward.
Independence is located along U.S. Highway 20 in northeast Iowa. It is the hometown of 1st District Congressional candidate Ben Lange, a Republican. (He was not present for Biden’s visit.)
At around 2:15, Biden met crowds gathered outside the diner. As we walked away from a crowd on one corner, several people shouted in unison, “Babies deserve to live!”
Biden walked across 1st Street to a line of people, greeting and shaking hands with each one. Amidst the crowd, he kissed the cheek of a young girl, Paige Rose Nielson-Scalaro, 3, wearing an Iowa Hawkeyes cheerleading outfit.
Done shaking hands, he called out, “Keep the faith,” before returning to a vehicle.
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