Wall Street Journal/pool reporter
Portage, Indiana is a little town about an hour and a half bus ride from Elkhart. Here, they have a diner called Schoops Hamburgers but everyone calls the place Schoops Portage on account of it being a local chain. It's one of those faux-Happy Days joints – railcar layout, clad in shiny aluminum, plopped down in a strip mall and capped with a red neon sign. Most everyone inside was in on the joke – they all knew Obama and Bayh were coming – they heard from their momma down at city hall, from local reporters, the mailman – via the usual Mayberry grapevine.
Obama and Bayh came in the front, turned right and started working the booths, ropeline style. Obama passed a table of steelworkers and reached beyond them. A bulky steelworker, a local named Tony Capriglione, shouted out at Bayh, "you get a job offer yet?"
The table fell out laughing. Bayh shifted his eyes with mock stealth and discomfort. "Shhhh," he said, walking his eyebrows in Obama's direction.
Then a lady in a pink shirt got in on the fun. "He your vice president?" She shouted at Obama. He chuckled and pretended like he was going to ignore her. "I haven't made a decision about my vice president yet," he said over his shoulder.
Obama went through a succession of admirers and supplicants: a guy wearing a wife-beater, a fireman, a kid wearing an "I..Am...So...Pissed...Off" t-shirt. He made his way to the Formica counter, ordered a cheeseburger with mustard, lettuce, tomato and three more with the works. A few diners sat sullenly as he worked the second half of the room, stonefaced and staring ahead as they worked through their nosh. Other people clearly were as excited to see Bayh as they were Obama. But most everyone in the room was about the senator from Chicago, had pens and cellphones at the ready, and angled hard for a keepsake to mark their brush with the presumptive nominee.
Outside was another scrum of local press and latecomers, maybe 100 people in all. Obama and Bayh worked the crowd, moving toward the bus. It was here that Bayh announced he was a big White Sox fan (Hey! Just like Obama!), prompting more than a few knowing eyerolls from the jaded national press corps.
The whole thing was done in 20 minutes. As they stepped toward the bus, Obama clapped Bayh on the shoulder and the two men shook hands.
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