Obama visit to North Carolina restaurant stirs mixed emotions
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – There was a sharp exchange among patrons during Barack Obama‘s visit to a barbecue restaurant on Sunday, highlighting the strong emotions the U.S. presidential race is stirring in the final weeks of the campaign.
Obama stopped by Cape Fear BBQ in Fayetteville, North Carolina, to pick up some chicken, collards and baked beans and court voters in this traditionally Republican state.
Some patrons cheered his arrival while others looked on with curiosity and surprise. One woman yelled, “Socialist, Socialist, Socialist — get out of here.” Obama was across the room at the time and did not appear to hear Diane Fanning, 54, who was among several patrons who had just come by after services at the local Presbyterian church. She said she was annoyed that the Illinois senator had stopped in at the restaurant that she regularly visits.
Obama supporter Cecelia Hayslip, 61, responded to Fanning’s comments by saying, “At least he’s not a warmonger.”
Lenox Bramble, 76, isn’t an Obama supporter but he also was bothered by Fanning’s comment. “Be civil, be courteous,” he said.
Later, Bramble and his wife, Kit, seemed to find some common ground with Obama when he said he shared their concerns about the loss of textile jobs to other countries and underscored his pledge to try to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Act.
They later said that while they found Obama likeable, they were not going to vote for him. Lenox finds Obama too inexperienced while Kit said she had been a conservative Republican since Barry Goldwater’s 1964 candidacy and wasn’t about to change.
Obama had more success with first-time voter Mike Long, 33, who talked to the candidate about health care. Long said he had gone from being less than 50 percent likely to vote for Obama to being 98 percent certain he would back the Democrat.
Obama later walked over to Fanning’s table and extended his hand to her but she did not shake it.
North Carolina is among some traditional Republican states that have turned competitive in recent weeks. George W. Bush won the state handily in both 2000 and 2004, racking up more than 12-point wins each time. But an average of recent polls on the Web site RealClearPoltics showed Obama with slight 1.3 percent lead in the state.
Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young – U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama makes a campaign stop at a restaurant in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Oct. 19, 2008.