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September 9, 2012

Obama’s “Lift” Coming Out of Charlotte: The Definitive Picture

So the question is, why is this photo attracting so much buzz on the social nets? Answer: it elects to define Obama’s standing coming off Labor Day and the conventions. While Nate Silver rummages through the post Charlotte data and hints about a statistically significant shift Obama’s way, the picture’s already ahead of him.

It doesn’t take an MSNBC panel to tell us that Obama: is feeling a lift; experiencing a bounce; seeing things looking up. All it takes is one photo off the ground with visual metaphors. So there’s the spatial and directional allusions. Then, the hug is also hugely significant.  It may not be that Obama’s the answer to our hopes, as he detailed in his convention speech, but the comparative inference is that people do not feel a lot of warmth for or from Romney. Instead, Barack’s the guy we can get our arms around. The main hook in the story, though, is that Scott Van Duzer, the pizza parlor owner and weight lifter, is a Republican. Ignoring the fact he voted for Obama the last time around, the other bit of symbolism here is of Obama as the cross-over favorite. Of course, we’ve got a strong Main Street, small business, man-of-the-people vibe in play here, too. And then, with the game on and brew at the ready, these kinds of trapping have been so thoroughly woven into the campaign fabric (we know he doesn’t drink beer; does Romney even watch sports?) that nobody even notices them anymore.

The pundit class can pretend it’s anyone’s battle but I see take off.

(photo: Doug Mills/New York Times via Twitter)

  • http://profiles.google.com/thomasgokey Thomas Gokey

    Everything you say here is right, but the image also strikes me as “not very presidential.” He’s the leader of the free world yet getting picked up by some pizza guy. In such an interaction Obama is not in control but seems more or less comfortable not being in control. There is a casual trust.

    The first thing it made me think was that the pizza guy was pretty rude, this just isn’t how you’re supposed to act. But that’s part of what makes it such a wonderful moment and photo.
    To some degree it’s an everyman equalizer, the president isn’t so full of himself that he isn’t above some friendly, and really quite intimate when you look at it, interaction. But it’s also a visually vulnerable position. It could turn into a wrestling style body slam pretty easily.

    The video is pretty good, the pizza guy’s gregarious personality comes through as does Obama’s ease at dealing with people on a personal level: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7421142n
    I cannot in a million years imagine Romney having a similar interaction, but if he did, it would be fun to figure out how that photo would read or be used by the media. I might read it as Romney losing control of the race.

    • bks

      I agree. Mistake on Obama’s part.

      –bks

    • http://www.bagnewsnotes.com Michael Shaw

      In the articles, they also make a big point about how the pizza guy asked first.

  • BamaGuy1024

    Watch the video, it is a delight – the pizzeria owner is delighted to have the President stop by for lunch, and Obama is just extremely nice and gracious and compliments his host’s physique, they compare biceps, then they hug and he demonstrates his strength by lifting Obama off his feet, it is just fun and joyful – and the fact that Obama is so comfortable and warm just totally highlights the difference between himself and Romney. Those of us who love the President feel that much affection for him

  • http://twitter.com/kidzmom1 kidzmom1

    I think anything that points out the “likability gap” between Romney and Obama is good for Obama. Vulnerable? Not with the expression of joy on Van Duzer’s face.

  • janis edwards

    Nice read, Michael. And to others, I don’t think “looking presidential” is a big concern for Obama at the moment. Looking human compared to Romney has its advantages. Obama is alreday and very recently the “regular guy” who hoists a beer. To my mind, that helps reduce Obama’s unwelcome “otherness” factor just a bit.

    • http://www.bagnewsnotes.com Michael Shaw

      Yes, I think that’s what they are going for, in a big way. If I had a dollar for every beer in an Obama photo op this campaign….

  • Cactus

    The president is asking us to trust him for another four
    years. Here he is demonstrating that he trusts us! It’s a two way street. I
    don’t think the phrase “you people” will ever cross his lips. Compare Obama’s
    ease with the citizenry to Romney’s patronizing tilt of his head when he doesn’t
    feel he has to explain his plans to the masses.

    Remember that the whole idea of our presidency is that s/he is
    a person of the people, as opposed to the kings/queens of old. The message I
    get here is that he truly is a man of the people; he didn’t come from
    generations of wealth and privilege. I don’t think, even if he were behind in
    the race, this photo could come off as anything but two guys in a pizza parlor
    teasing each other and the joy they take in that camaraderie.

    I love the expression on the woman sitting to the left. She’s enjoying this.

  • LanceThruster

    Do you clear this with Obama ahead of time or the Secret Service? I mean, in this day and age…amirite?

  • gmoke

    Rmoney doesn’t watch sports, not even his wife’s sport, but he does know many of the owners of teams, just like NASCAR you know.

  • http://profiles.google.com/thomasgokey Thomas Gokey

    I wouldn’t call it a mistake. It seems like the photo is actually a pretty big boost to him. I’m just trying to read it visually. I think that it fits into the boost narrative to a large degree because of the context of this news cycle.

    But imagine if Romney had just come off a large convention bump and Obama had a small or no bump. How would we read the picture then? I’d say that in that context it would read as a pathetic attempt to have Obama make up the difference.

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