Obama embraces ordinary voters in effort to escape bubble
AMERICA:Scott Van Duzer’s bear hug was a useful moment for a president keen to show he can relate to ordinary citizens’ concerns, writes LARA MARLOWE
IT WAS a curious ritual. A colossus of a man appeared on the upper tier of bleachers in the stadium where US president Barack Obama was about to speak in Florida earlier this week. The crowd cheered.
King Kong-like, the man proceeded to hug and pick up a woman who stood beside him. The crowd roared their approval.
The hulking figure was Scott “the Obama hugger” Van Duzer. The 42-year-old pizza shop owner is 6’3”, 265 pounds and can bench press 350lbs – about twice Obama’s weight.
Van Duzer was golfing last September 10th when he received a phone call from the White House.
The president was in the area and had heard of Van Duzer’s bike ride from Florida to Washington to raise awareness of the need for blood donations. Would it be all right if he dropped by Van Duzer’s Big Apple Pizzeria?
By the time Van Duzer got there, the secret service had removed all the cutlery and the sharp, pointed object on which he impales bills. When Obama arrived, he commented on Van Duzer’s imposing physique.
“Whoaa . . . look at those muscles!” the president said. “If I eat pizza, will I get as big and strong as you are?”
“You wanna see strong? I’ll show you strong,” Van Duzer replied, wrapping Obama in a bear hug and lifting him off the floor. The image went viral.
Van Duzer is the latest in a string of ordinary people rendered famous by Obama. During the 2008 campaign, Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher asked Obama about taxes on small businesses at a rally. “I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody,” Obama replied. John McCain seized on the issue and it dominated the next presidential debate.
Today, Wurzelbacher is standing as a blue-collar conservative against the 15-term Democratic congresswoman Marcy Kaptur in northern Ohio.
He’s likely to lose, but that hasn’t prevented vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan citing him as an example of hard-working Americans thwarted by government regulation.
Marcelas Owens was 11 years old when he worked the halls of Congress campaigning for the healthcare Bill in 2010. His mother Tiffany had died of pulmonary hypertension in 2007 after she had lost her insurance.
Marcelas stood to the right of Obama when he signed the Affordable Care Act. He was back on television this year, in the run-up to the Supreme Court decision that upheld the Bill.