RALEIGH - Sen. Barack Obama made a last-minute, surprise appearance at a downtown bar this afternoon, ordering a Pabst Blue Ribbon (beer of the working man) and spending half an hour greeting voters. “Everyone voted?” he hollered, walking up Martin Street as he headed into the Raleigh Times bar about 5:30 p.m.
He went inside, ordered a draft and tipped bartender Jay Winfrey $18.
“I think he forgot his change,” Winfrey joked.
Obama hoisted his beer, took a sip and asked again if everyone had voted. “You’ve only got two hours!” he said.
As some two dozen journalists crowded around with cameras and notebooks, Obama chatted up voters at the bar, including a fellow in a suit and carpenters Matt Swean, 25, and Craig Evans, 50.
He greeted the men, asked them what they did for a living.
Swean said later he wasn’t planning to vote.
Evans would vote later, he said, but he wouldn’t say who for. Asked whether Obama’s visit might change his mind, he smiled. “Not really.”
Crowds quickly gathered outside as word of the Obama sighting spread.
Ashley Dubel, 28, was on Glenwood Avenue, on her way home from work as a kindergarten teacher when she heard from a friend who’d heard from a friend who worked at the bar.
“Oh, it’s so exciting,” Dubel said. “I got pictures on my phone, I got pictures on my camera.”
She already had on her “I voted” sticker.
Outside, Obama spent 15 minutes moving down the sidewalk and greeting more voters, signing autographs and getting his picture taken as police officers, sheriff’s deputies and Secret Service agents kept onlookers at bay and a helicopter hovered overhead.
Michelle Obama followed, greeting more voters.
About 6:15 p.m., Obama waved to the crowd and left.