The President returns to the site of a 2008 campaign triumph, and enjoys beer and pork chops...
President Obama visited the Iowa State Fair on Monday evening, quickly donning a baseball hat with the slogan "Iowa State Fair, nothing compares" after arriving on Ground Force One at 7:20 PM. He bought his own ticket ($10) and declared "Let's go to the fair!" as he headed into the crowd, shaking hands, posing for photos, and signing autographs on the way to enjoying pork chops and a Bud. He spent close to an hour mingling with thrilled fairgoers, joined by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a former two-term governor of the state--and trailed by a pack of reporters and Secret Service. (Above: With pork chops and a Bud)
The Fair is the site of a triumph from the 2008 campaign: Legendary butter artist Norma Lyon, the Butter Cow Lady, created the president's image in US Grade AA salted butter, eschewing her preferred subject of life-sized cows. Lyon's 2007 radio spot endorsing Candidate Obama helped him win the crucial state. (Above: The President and Vilsack greet fairgoers)
Earlier in the day, the President told a campaign crowd that Secret Service had banned him from the Bumper Cars--and his wife had made a certain treat off limits--"Michelle has told me I cannot have a fried Twinkie"--but he had plenty of fun anyway.
"I'm saving my space for porkchop on a stick," the President told vendor Cookie Smith, 16, as she offered a Ginnie Smiths Gourmet Mini Cinnamon Rolls from a booth.
The President's big announcement on Monday was USDA's purchase of up to $100 million in pork to help livestock producers impacted by the drought. He was starting the federal purchasing program early.
The President declined a frozen fruit smoothie offered by another eager vendor.
"Smoothie sounds okay but a beer sounds better," he said.
There was a diplomatic interaction with royalty: Iowa State Fair Queen Abrah Meyer, 17, clad in crown, sash, necklace, pin and royal purple dress, received the President. The Readlyn native
posed for photos with the Eater in Chief, who wanted to know if royalty attends college (yes).
In the Bud Tent...
Across the street, a rowdy crowd in the Bud Tent chanted "Four more years!" as the President approached. That "seemed to please POTUS greatly," pool reported, though a Romney sign was spotted. (Above: The President greeted by a pack of beer enthusiasts, and one lone dissenter)
The President entered the tent and started shaking hands. Mike Cunningham, 47, whose family has owned the Bud Tent since 1947, awaited, ready to pour the President his beer. Before the President walked over, Mr. Cunningham said business had been going good until around 5:00 PM when the Secret Service shut him down in advance of the President's arrival.
"Hey everyone whose over 21, you gotta buy a beer!" the president shouted to the crowd. An opportunistic reveler yelled, asking the President, "is it on you?"
Mr. Obama peered into his wallet: "Let me see what's in my wallet."
The beer crowd, meanwhile, started chanting "four more beers!"
"I'll tell you what, except for Romney sign, I'll buy beers for ten people," the President said.
Mitt Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) visited the Fair earlier in the day.
Greg Lear, president-elect of the Iowa Pork Producers, handed the President a plate--not a stick--of two fat, juicy pork chops. (Above: Beer with Vilsack)
"Hey here's my pork on a stick!" the President crowed.
Cunningham, the barkeep, gave him a Bud, and a t shirt--"Save Water, Drink Beer"--and took a picture with him.
"It is ice cold and tasty," the President said as he sipped his Bud. "Gonna go well with my pork chop."
The President finally tried to tuck into his pork chop, but realized he was lacking utensils.
"Someone's gotta have a knife and fork!" he yelled.
By 8:50 PM, the president was aboard Ground Force One and leaving the glitter of the State Fair behind, heading off to his hotel. (Above: Chatting with a family)
The President last visited the Iowa State Fair in 2007, when he took his wife and daughters for a day of caramel corn, Bumper Cars and the Big Ben roller coaster. Then-candidate Obama "tried his hand at the Spyr-O-Mania booth," where he lost twice before finally winning with Sasha’s help, the White House said.
Lyon, the Butter Cow Lady, was a staple of the Iowa State Fair for decades, and in her radio ad she said of the President “he knows our kids need opportunity here in Iowa so they don’t have to leave home to follow their dreams, even if that dream is 500 pounds of butter shaped like a cow.” Lyon passed away in May, 2011 at the age of 81.
The President's buscapade through Iowa continues on Tuesday and Wednesday. (Above: Drinking his Bud with Cunningham)
An AP video inside the Bud Tent:
CLICK HERE for all posts about the bus tour.