DUBUQUE, Iowa — When Michelle Obama asked her husband on Wednesday if he'd eaten a fried Twinkie at the Iowa State Fair, President Obama leaned into the microphone to boast: "Pork chop and beer."
"He's so pleased with himself," the first lady shot back, rolling her eyes to the crowd.
He sure seemed to be. Across Iowa over the past three days, Obama talked about wind power and drought relief and middle-class taxes. But what he really seemed excited about was beer. He bought a round of beers at the fair. He told coffee shop patrons about one of the latest features at the White House: a home brewery. He spoke longingly of the beer he planned to quaff on the bus at the end of the day.
The crowds drank it up. They cheered at every mention, chanting: "Four more beers!"
That may be exactly the point. As Obama and his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, battle for hearts and votes, Romney is trying to show that he shares their values of family, faith and hard work. He talks of marrying his high school sweetheart, supporting his wife through her battle with multiple sclerosis, raising his five boys and enjoying his grandchildren. Obama is taking it a step further by trying to seem an everyman himself. He talks of being raised by a single mom, his late father-in-law's working-class career, his own family's financial struggles in their early years.
And he talks about beer.
There is good reason to presume that beer is a way for Obama to connect with voters. It presents a contrast with Romney, who doesn't drink (and who was scooping ice cream in a 1950s-style parlor in Ohio when Obama was buying beers at the fair). Consumer research shows that beer is most popular with the very voters that Obama and Romney are fighting over: middle-America independents.