Voters get drunk on Obama

By Tyler Davis

He bought a round of beers in Waterloo, and then had a few more. He woke up on a bus in Des Moines, Iowa surrounded by beer bottles, unable to remember the events of the previous night. That’s life on the campaign trail for President Barack Obama.

OK, not quite, but the president has been talking about his love of beer a lot lately, buying drinks at the Iowa State Fair and handing out some of his home-brewed White House beer to reporters. Now a petition with thousands of signatures is going around the Internet asking the president to release the recipe for his homemade honey ale. After all, he did promise a more transparent government.

But don’t expect the president to show up at your next kegger. Obama’s latest drinking binge has less to do with him than with his opponent, a

Mormon teetotaler.

As a Mormon, Mitt Romney doesn’t drink alcohol, or caffeine for that matter. Obama’s public happy hour is a subtle way of pointing out how his opponent’s abstinence may make voters think of him as rigid. On the campaign trail, everything is political.

Obama has always had the edge of being more relatable than his opponent, i.e. John McCain in 2008. Only 26 percent of responders in one Pew poll thought McCain had the ability to personally connect with ordinary Americans, compared to 58 percent for Obama.

Obama’s time in Iowa in August was more like a pub crawl than a campaign bus tour. The president stopped at a beer tent at the state fair and bought beer for a crowd chanting “Four more beers!” and talked to voters about enjoying a pork chop and beer, according to Politico.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has been answering questions about the White House home-brew and promised on his Twitter that if the petition gets enough signatures, the recipe will be released.

This could be Obama’s way of biting back at Romney’s latest personal attacks. After noticing the most recent likability polls, Romney has been attacking the president’s best asset: his image as a congenial, charismatic guy. In late August, Romney described Obama as someone who “will do or say anything to get elected,” according to the

Associated Press.

Fifty-three percent of voters have a favorable opinion of Obama as a person, while only 44 percent view Romney favorably, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll published in late August. On the question of who you’d rather sit down with to have a drink, alcoholic or not, Obama takes the lead.

Likability becomes a bigger issue with every election cycle. There was a time before mass media when many voters had never even seen the presidential candidates. Now we are bombarded with information about their public and private lives on a daily basis. Politicians are expected to be personable and friendly.

A friendly candidate is not always a good leader, however. Likability has been given disproportional focus in politics. In the 2000 election, Al Gore was lampooned for being robotic and stale. An October 2000 Pew poll found that 48 percent of voters found George W. Bush likable. Thirty-nine percent found Gore likable, but 45 percent of those polled thought the former vice president was more qualified to be president than Bush. Although you couldn’t sit down and have a beer with Bush (he doesn’t drink either, for personal reasons), he was still clearly the friendlier candidate. But recent history has shown us, that means very little.

Al Gore went on to win a Nobel Peace Prize for addressing climate change, one of the most pressing issues of our time, while his vanquisher presided over one of the most unpopular presidential administrations in

U.S. history.

So take off the beer goggles and take a look at what is really going on. True, Obama is a charismatic, affable man. Certainly we shouldn’t look down on him for drinking a few beers, but we also shouldn’t give him credit for it. The president doesn’t have to be fun, friendly and entertaining. He just has to run the country.