He sure seemed to be. Across Iowa over the past three days, Obama talked about wind power and drought relief and middle-class taxes. But what he really seemed excited about was beer. He bought a round of beers at the fair. He told coffee shop patrons about one of the latest features at the White House: a home brewery. He spoke longingly of the beer he planned to quaff on the bus at the end of the day.
The crowds drank it up. They cheered at every mention, chanting: “Four more beers!”
That may be exactly the point. As Obama and his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, battle for hearts and votes, Romney is trying to show that he shares their values of family, faith and hard work. He talks of marrying his high school sweetheart, supporting his wife through her battle with multiple sclerosis, raising his five boys and enjoying his grandchildren. Obama is taking it a step further by trying to seem an everyman himself. He talks of being raised by a single mom, his late father-in-law’s working-class career, his own family’s financial struggles in their early years.
And he talks about beer.
There is good reason to presume that beer is a way for Obama to connect with voters. It presents a contrast with Romney, who doesn’t drink (and who was ordering vanilla ice cream in a 1950s-style parlor in Ohio when Obama was buying beers at the fair). Consumer research shows that beer is most popular with the very voters that Obama and Romney are fighting over: middle-America independents.
According to Scarborough USA, 35 percent of these voters say they’ve had a beer in the past 30 days, compared with 30 percent of Democrats and 27 percent of Republicans. The numbers are even starker when focused on microbrews, with 45 percent of independents saying they drank one in the past month — and only 25 percent of Democrats and 23 percent of Republicans saying the same.
Obama likes microbrews, too — so much so that he bought a beer-
making kit (with personal funds) for the White House. The kitchen staff has made three varieties so far: White House Honey Ale, White House Honey Blonde Ale and White House Honey Porter. All are made with honey from Michelle Obama’s kitchen garden.
White House officials were quick to point out that to call the beer-
making operation a “brewery” would be an exaggeration.
That hasn’t stopped Obama from talking about the beer-making enterprise — or sharing it. At a campaign stop Tuesday at a coffee shop in Knoxville, Iowa, he explained the light and dark varieties the White House produces. And when a patron requested a bottle, the president sent a member of his staff out to the campaign bus to get one.
So he takes the beer on the road, too. It seems reasonable, in fact, to dub this swing the Iowa Beer Tour.