The Washington Post

Obama campaign gets a lift in Florida

Is this the lift President Obama was looking for on his campaign bus tour through Florida?

In this key swing state, Obama stopped at Big Apple Pizza & Pasta Italian Restaurant, where he was greeted by owner Scott Van Duzer, a muscular man dressed in a gray T-shirt and matching athletic shorts.

Van Duzer was so smitten by the president that he embraced him in a bear hug, leaned backward and lifted the 6-foot-2 president a foot off the ground. Photos of the moment show Obama with his arms spread wide and palms turned upward, as if to say he’s at the mercy of the pizzaman.

Van Duzer has a broad smile on his face, and a woman in the background has a look of sheer surprise. Reporters lined up on the other side also had a clear view of the lift.

Afterward, a reporter at the scene reported that Van Duzer, 46, from Port St. Lucie, stands 6-foot-3 and weights 260 pounds, and he can bench-press 350.

“Everybody look at these guns,” Obama said, pointing to Van Duzer’s chest. “If I eat your pizza, will I look like that?”

“Look at that!” Obama exclaimed after Van Duzer put him down. “Man, are you a powerlifter or what?”

Obama told reporters that he stopped at the restaurant because the owner has set state records for donating blood.

“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,” Obama said. “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.”

Van Duzer is a registered Republican, but he voted for Obama in 2008 and said he will do so again in November.

“I don’t vote party line, I vote who I feel comfortable with, and I do feel extremely comfortable with him,” he said. Apparently, the Secret Service gave him the go-ahead to lift Obama “as long as I didn’t take him away.”

David Nakamura covers the White House. He has previously covered sports, education and city government and reported from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Japan.

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