July 30th, 2008
06:00 PM ET

Obama samples slice of heartland

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/30/art.obama.diner.jpg caption="Sen. Barack Obama chats with diners at Bell Restaurant in Lebanon,Missouri."]
Editor's note: This pool report was filed by Michael Powell on the Obama campaign trail in Lebanon, Missouri.

Never let it be said that Barack Obama is a slow learner. Team Obama pulled into the Bell Restaurant (a diner, as defined by this New Yorker but who am I to argue with a Mizzou-an), which advertises itself as offering B.B.Q., Steak and Seafood.

The candidate, who is sparing in consumption of almost everything, and has taken grief in the press for not letting his waist expand as the campaign season progresses, wanders in and immediately and loudly announces:

"Well, I've had lunch but I'm thinking maybe there is some pie."

Then he drops that thought and sets to the business of chatting up waitresses, signing napkins and shaking hands with the 11 paying customers. These are mostly retired men in NASCAR and camouflage caps nursing their fifth or sixth cups of coffee. They are not a verbose lot.

How you guys doin'?" the candidate asks a table of four.
"Pretty good," one answers.
"What sort of work you do?" the candidate asks.
"Retired," says one. "Not much," says another.


The candidate moves toward the kitchen, trailed by a beaming waitress or two. The food question hangs there.

"Well, I should order something," he says, adding a caveat: "Now, I've had lunch."

He settles on fried chicken; in his telling, he's become a junk food dog. "The healthy people, we'll give them the breasts," he tells he waitress. "I'll eat the wings.

Word now is out that a presidential candidate is in. People crowd by, cell phones held aloft. Darrel Martin, the stocky white-haired owner with a tight pompadour, pushes on through.

"I came up here doing 80 on the interstate, yes I did," he announces, looking with just a touch of disgust at four large cops standing next to him. "I knew every trooper with a radar gun would be here."

This is the Republican red belt of Missouri, but celebrity trumps all. Even the Republicans smile and worry about "going goofy" with the candidate.

As the candidate headed for the door, waitress Mary Anderson picks up the phone.

"Barack Obama was here," she tells the caller. "But now he's leaving. So that's what is going on at Bell's."

And she hangs up.

Filed under: Barack Obama • Behind The Scenes
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Sam Johnson

    This is not a news article taking up 20 minutes of primetime television...it is a blog. It looks like it took about 10 minutes to write, and less to read. Why so harsh? I enjoy reading about the small stuff because I can't be all over America to see how the candidates handle themselves with regular Americans. I agree that this kind of coverage should be on both candidates, but this blog is about Obama, McCain's coverage would be in ANOTHER blog, thats usually how blogs work. They are short and opinionated and sometimes off the cuff. So thank you for the small town insight...

    July 31, 2008 at 8:35 am |

    I am not american nor black nationality. However, as I watch daily the news in CNN I felt Mr. Barack Obama is boastful or bigheaded. I understand him as he is to exicited and hunger to be come first black american president if he will win in this election... My comment is when he visited middle east and european countries he act as he is ligitimate president of American. He forgot that he is still one of the senator in america not a president of USA. Where is the Etiquette???? of Mr. Obama.

    For Mr. Obama and Mrs Clinton, I prepared Mrs. Clinton as American President as she is more capable and trustworthy. she can run as independent body. For american people u have your choice to vote but think big! if your going to Vote Mr. Obama. God Bless CNN..

    July 31, 2008 at 2:05 am |
  3. barbara

    Why do Mcclain always blast Obama about something ,is he just plain jealous.Obama is a young man and McClain is a old man with a lots of aches and pains.The old is always jealous of the young. If the phone ring at three oclock in the morning Mc Clain can only turn over and hope that he can get up. Obama can spring out of bed in one bounce.God bless the young,I know because I am 72 and aches all the time.Tell McClain to go with the flow.and grow old gracefully.And stop being jealous of the young because it makes him look like a fool.
    Obama can out think him,because he is in the 21st century and McClain is in the 20th century.Tell him to take his head out of the sand, and learn how to use the computer to find out what is really going on in ths world.

    July 31, 2008 at 1:43 am |
  4. Jenn/Monrovia CA

    OK, I'm a native Missourian, (Not Mizzou-an, how silly), and I had to grin at that. I know Lebanon, (my mother lived there for a while), and I know dozens of little towns all over the state, including my hometown one of Milan. I could see this happening in any of them, and people being just as simultaneously awe-struck and tight lipped. Even if they don't vote for him, the fact he stopped in and said hi will be the talk of the town FOR YEARS!

    I'm sorry, I had to giggle. It makes me miss home a little bit.

    July 31, 2008 at 1:23 am |
  5. Brandon

    Sorry Won't Work Obama , you can't Trick us out of our vote!! Will never vote for a hater and lier like you Obama!!! Thank God for McCain!!

    July 31, 2008 at 12:45 am |
  6. Inez

    Good evening,

    I'm writing regarding a comment made on tonights show, July 30, 2008. I t pertained to to fact that Barack Obama needs to "loose the suit" and put on some casual clothes and roll up his sleeves. Being a "black Man" in America, he knows he has to present a certain way/image. If Barack Obama meets a crowd and is in casual dress, someone, would say, "oh look at him, he can't dress like that if he wants to be in the White House!! " He won't win with some people no matter what he does.

    Inez Nedrick

    July 30, 2008 at 11:44 pm |
  7. jan

    I will really not like to see Obama in the Witte Huis. He will be too big for that house. The guy bounces as though he has already won the presidency. He is very presumtious. And CNN with its Obama coverage is making it worst. I used to enjoy the CNN coverage of the elections, but it has been a few months that I am no longer glued to CNN, but look for other channels to satisfy my objectivity. Sorry CNN, I had to make thos comment.

    July 30, 2008 at 11:21 pm |
  8. Larry

    Obama won't need to fill any cabinet positions, he'll do it all himself.

    July 30, 2008 at 10:53 pm |
  9. Annie Kate

    So he comes in for pie since he's already eaten and winds up with chicken wings? Doesn't sound like the Nascar boys were very impressed with him. I'm sure it gave someone a thrill though to see him in the flesh. I'd just like to hear some news that isn't about him or McCain for a while. By the time the general election is here the results are going to be an anti-climax after all the hype of the campaign.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    July 30, 2008 at 9:56 pm |
  10. BKoi

    This guy is just so cool! You folks are so lucky to have someone like him! A lot of people think he is arrogant. If you want an idiot for president, or a shrinking Violet, or a dud ( like McCain) or some wimp that can be pushed around , go for it! If you want a confidant , cool, modern,charismatic guy, that can stand up for the U.S.A, well? Here he is! What is your problem? He is all American, very patriotic, and pretty darned handsome too! Don't knock it till you try it!!!!!

    July 30, 2008 at 9:51 pm |
  11. sara

    Sen Obama will take just one pie for the dinner? This is totally agree with the strategical solutions of the campaign:)

    July 30, 2008 at 9:48 pm |
  12. Larry

    Candy Crowley and sometimes Roland Martin, when he's doing serious objective journalism, are the only CNN contributors that I will listen to on cnn. Wolf used to be somewhat objective, but now he can't wait to air anything that is damaging to the republican party (Hey Wolf! you want a one party dictatorship?)

    Gloria & Erica, are more like tabloid junkies, maybe they need to polish their resumes for openings on TMZ.

    July 30, 2008 at 9:48 pm |
  13. seah ohio

    Obama is Trying to impress the bitter ones

    July 30, 2008 at 9:01 pm |
  14. James Dylan

    Now was this article really necessary? Have we ran out of things to say about Obama? Are we going to be told when he empties his boules next? Perhaps next time we could, I don't know, maybe, write something worthy of, ummm, anything. If this is all that is expected of CNN writers could you send me an application?

    July 30, 2008 at 8:59 pm |
  15. Jan from Wood Dale, IL

    After that reception, did Obama take the wings to go?

    July 30, 2008 at 8:11 pm |
  16. Tammy

    It's amazing to me how Obama eats fried chicken with NASCAR fans, and it's turned by the Obama supporters into a campaign message on this blog that the moderator will allow. I didn't personally think a PSA to register to vote for Obama was allowable on a supposedly candidate neutral site. I guess CNN really is on the take from the Obama campaign. Pity. You used to be a real source for news. And now you simply have become part of the mindless blithering idiots on the far left willing to give the election to Obama. Oh well. Time for Bill O'Reilly. Anderson and this show may be a sell out, but at least some anchors still stay true to what they believe even though your viewers would never know that from watching this program.

    July 30, 2008 at 7:47 pm |
  17. Mari, Salt Lake City

    I am glad that Sen. Obama was well received. I BELIEVE in the GOODNESS and FAIR-MINDED-NESS of we, the American people! No matter what the polls say, there are a lot of us, that have not been asked who we are going to vote for, or whom we like! I know that living in Utah, that Independents and Democrats are excited about Sen. Obama......... even some Republicans who do not like McCain may vote for the "other side"..........perhaps turning our red state a nice shade of purple!

    If there are any college students on these blogs, please by sure an register to vote. If you are register consider an "absentee ballot" so that your class schedule or your work wont prevent you from voting! WE are going to have record numbers of people voting this November!

    July 30, 2008 at 7:02 pm |
  18. Maritza

    Wow , how deep. is that what '"change " really means.

    July 30, 2008 at 6:43 pm |