Obama greets breakfast crowd at St. Paul restaurant

Sen. Barack Obama
Gayle Christensen said she has been supporter of Sen. Barack Obama since he gave his speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. She had him autograph one of the Copper Dome menus to remember the visit.
MPR Photo/Tom Scheck

Obama stopped by the Copper Dome Restaurant to order up some pancakes, one day after he raised plenty of cake at a private fundraiser in Minneapolis.

During his 45 minute visit, Obama walked from table to table shaking hands with customers, picking up a baby and talking policy with some patrons. He did it all as dozens of reporters, photographers and videographers tracked his every move.

Reporters didn't get any time to ask the Illinois senator any questions but the media could hear some of his conversations with customers.

Breakfast greetings
Barack Obama stopped by the Copper Dome Restaurant in St. Paul to greet patrons on Aug. 7, 2008. He shook hands with almost every diner, ordered some pancakes to go and talked policy with a few of the customers.
MPR Photo/Tom Scheck

Obama asked many of the patrons what they do for a living. He told a teacher that his sister worked in education. He told a nurse educator that they needed a raise and he talked about the automobile industry with some Ford workers.

He also joked with a group of Twins fans that he's pulling for his hometown Chicago White Sox to win the AL Central.

"If you think that I'm here in Minnesota, that I'm going to throw my White Sox under the bus, it's not going to happen," he said.

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Obama also mixed some policy into the discussion. He is focused on protecting the environment, he told Amy O'Neill.

"In terms of magnitudes of scale, the less power we use the more efficient we are. That will probably have a bigger impact on the environment than anything else," he said.

O'Neill, who lives in Indiana but is visiting her family in St. Paul, was impressed with Obama but doesn't know who she'll vote for in November. O'Neill's dad, Paul Ebert, talked to Obama about immigration and how he's worried that foreign labor is causing some American workers to lose their jobs.

"We've seen a lot of H1B people come in from India. That's a concern of mine since some of my friends have been laid off," Ebert said.

"Now, companies will argue that we're getting these folks because they're the only ones who can do the job," Obama replied.

Ebert countered.

"I don't believe that. I see qualified people ushered out the door," he said.

Ebert is leaning towards voting for Obama even though he's voted for Republicans for 20 years. He's not happy with how President Bush handled the war in Iraq and thinks an Obama win would be historic, Ebert said.

Ebert's wife, Diane, however is not voting this year. Her top issue is abortion and she thinks neither Obama nor Republican John McCain will do enough to protect the unborn.

"I'm happy for Obama breaking the racial thing. If he's elected, he's my president," she said. "I'll support him and pray for him but I'll have a hole in my heart that this country is morally going off of the deep end."

As word spread that Obama was visiting the Golden Dome, more and more people rushed into the restaurant and with some people mingling on the sidewalk for a few words with the candidate.

His visit shocked Steve Peltier, Dave Herber and Brad Romo.

All three either work or once worked, at St. Paul's Ford plant. They talked about the manufacturing sector and the economy with Obama.

They were impressed with Obama and his background, all three said.

"He started out like a regular guy like us. A single mother stuff like that," Romo said.

"We noticed he had cracks in his shoes. We liked that. It's important to have regular shoes." Herber said.

"(They were) normal shoes. I thought they'd be all fancy. He seemed down to earth. It was something." Peltier said.

A spokesman for Republican John McCain's campaign showed up outside the restaurant to remind reporters that Obama was in Minnesota for a multi-million dollar fundraiser.

On Wednesday, donors contributed nearly $29,000 each to attend the private event in Minneapolis. Minnesota voters won't be happy to learn that Obama is the first candidate to not take public financing for the general election, Tom Steward said.

"Lots of folks ponied up $28,500 and had a few bites of dinner with him. Probably a lot more than were in there having breakfast this morning. I'll guarantee you that. That was his main purpose of being here was to raise money."

McCain has not scheduled another campaign stop in Minnesota this month, Steward said. However, the pointed out that McCain will accept the Republican nomination for president on September 4th, in St.Paul.