Forget all of those Drudge Report headlines about the vacationing first lady's $2,000 sun dress, the president's six-plus hour golf outings, and their three-hour, $100-a-person dinner tasting at posh Alan Wong's restaurant in Honolulu.
Because the president's 2012 campaign has a new Joe Sixpack theme: "He's just a dude!"
Softening his image and making him appear more approachable than his whining White House press corps—kept far from his Hawaii vacation stops—suggests, the campaign is distributing a short interview with one of President Obama's donor dining guests who said his host was far from Superman.
"He's just a dude!" says Casey Helbling, who attended Obama's hot dog dinner with low-dollar donors in northern Virginia last October. "It was great to have a frank conversation with him, to realize that he's not Superman," he added.
The campaign is using Helbling's interview, and emails from the president, first lady and even former presidential "body man" Reggie Love to promote his second donor dinner for the campaign. Aides say that the dinners are extremely successful in raising money and energizing supporters.
Helbling, a Minnesota businessman, joined by three other guests as the October dinner, told Fox 9 News in Minneapolis at the time that the president seemed very down to earth. When he asked about Obama's daily routine, the president described it this way, according to Helbling: ""He gets up around 7 a.m. and gets to the gym and has breakfast and goes downstairs to work around 9 a.m. And he works non-stop until 6:30 p.m., then at 6:30 p.m. he goes home."
Presenting the president as just a regular dude is a smart move, according to Democratic advisers, who are concerned that the president hasn't connected well with middle-income Americans, especially men. During the 2008 campaign, Obama was the darling of the working class, regularly seen in rolled-up sleeves and sometimes with a beer in his hand.
Obama's next dinner is going to be far different than the first of his re-election. First lady Michelle Obama is going to join him and the winners will be allowed to bring a guest.
And the cost has more than quadrupled. The first dinner had a retail value of $1,075, including airfare. The next is valued at $4,800. Updated: The price of the donor dinner has not increased to $4,800 per person as the Obama campaign note suggested. The campaign called to tell us that instead of breaking down the retail value per person, as they did for the first donor dinner, a combined price was given.
Below is the campaign's interview with Helbling, available via their campaign app for iPad:
What's It Like to Have Dinner with Barack?
By Laura on December 28, 2011
Want to know what it's like to have Dinner with Barack? Casey, a small-business owner from Minnesota, donated to the campaign earlier this year and was one of four lucky supporters to win our Dinner with Barack contest. He gave us the scoop on what it was like to sit down for a meal with the President of the United States.
Q: What was your reaction when you heard you had won dinner with the President?
Casey: "At first I was shocked and couldn't believe it—I thought it was a prank phone call! I don't think I really realized it was going to happen until I sat down and shook his hand, started asking questions and eating dinner."
Q: What did you talk about?
Casey: "It was great to have a frank conversation with him—to realize that he's not Superman. What I'll remember most is our conversation about his personal life and his routine. He's just a dude! He looked straight at me and said he's not much of a morning person, and gave a pretty normal description of his daily life."
Q: Have any of the President's accomplishments affected you, your friends, or your family?
Casey: "I want to refinance my house, but with the housing market under water, I just can't do that. He said that he's working on it, with his new housing initiative, but that he still has work to do. He was realistic and pragmatic about it—he's taking the action that he can."
Q: What's your favorite memory from your dinner with the President—something you can tell your grandkids?
Casey: "That he gets up … goes to the gym, goes to work, and sits down to dinner with his family. That he's a real person."
For your chance to sit down to dinner with Barack and Michelle, enter here—you and your guest could have a once-in-a-lifetime story to share with your friends and family.
No purchase necessary. Entries must be received by 12/31. Approx retail value of prize: $4800. Odds of winning depend on # of entries received. Promotion subject to Official Rules & additional restrictions on eligibility. Void where prohibited. Obama for America, 130 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60601.
- Vote now: Will Obama be a one-term president?
- See pictures of Obama behind the scenes
- See pictures of Michelle Obama
Updated on 12/29 at 3:00 p.m. ET