Dinsdag 17/05/2022

Obama: The Happy Warrior


Continued from page 1

"You can see the nostalgia setting in," observed Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director. "The focus here is winning and making the case, but the last campaign of a man's life - you every once in a while pause and think about that."

Other than a brief interlude for Hurricane Sandy, the White House has been relocated to Air Force One for months. Between stops, he huddles in the plane's conference room, nursing his throat with tea and scratching out his speech in longhand.

His daily routine has been upended, but he tries to keep up his workout regimen in hotel fitness centers. He eats whenever he can, usually whatever the Air Force stewards are serving aboard the plane or something brought in before a speech.

He is happier whenever he gets time with Michelle Obama, but she has largely kept a separate schedule. Like any father on the road, he makes sure to call his wife and children every evening. To keep him company in recent weeks, friends like Marty Nesbitt and Mike Ramos have accompanied him aboard Air Force One. Between conference calls on storm recovery on Sunday, he checked out the Chicago Bears football game on the Air Force One television.

The other day, Mr. Obama landed in Chicago to vote and spotted his former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, now the city's mayor, waiting on the tarmac. A huge grin appeared on the president's face, and he pointed at Mr. Emanuel. The mayor grinned and pointed back. The two embraced like long-lost brothers and chatted happily before walking, arm in arm, to shake hands with bystanders."He's got his goal in eyesight, and he's driving to the basket," Mr. Emanuel said later. "He's a happy warrior, I'd say."

Happier with the debates over. He considered preparations for the first one "a drag," as he put it, and got walloped. It was an eye-opener for a president who has never lacked confidence, a moment when he "faced his own political mortality," Mr. Pfeiffer said. "The first debate turned a switch for him. He came out of that very focused on ensuring that would never happen again." By his own reckoning, Mr. Obama had failed to "communicate why he wants a second term," said another adviser.

After coming out stronger in the later debates, Mr. Obama could finally return to the trail, where the affirmation of the crowd beats the pounding of the pundits. The crowds are smaller - he drew 24,000 here in Bristow, compared with 60,000 and 80,000 in his final days in 2008 - but they are enthusiastic, and he draws energy from them. "The president seemed relaxed," said former Gov. Ted Strickland of Ohio, who campaigned with him in that state. "You don't see a lot of anxiety or frenetic behavior."

Mr. Obama seems to enjoy his unannounced stops even more, allowing a tiny peek into his interior life. At the Common Man restaurant in Merrimack, N.H., he met a woman with two daughters. "You can't beat daughters," he said, reflecting on his own, who were, he added, still at a good age: "They still love you. They're still cute."

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