Obama's team banks on his 'regular guy' appeal

By Ken Thomas

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Oct. 29 2011 9:00 p.m. MDT

President George H.W. Bush's favorable ratings exceeded 60 percent in mid-October 1991, according to an ABC/Washington Post poll. By the fall of 1992, his personal approval had fallen to the low 40s, according to Gallup, and he lost to Clinton.

How voters evaluate the personal and political sides of Obama will play a large role in next year's election.

Ann Anderson, a college administrator in Homer Glen, Ill., voted for Obama in 2008 but said she would probably support either Republican Mitt Romney or Rick Perry next year.

Anderson, an independent, said Obama was a "charming, attractive individual" and a "man of integrity" but with so many of her friends and relatives out of work, she wondered about the president's ability to steer the economy.

"I don't need a president to be charming. I need him to be an effective leader," Anderson said.

Dr. Martin Weinapple, a child psychiatrist in Princeton, N.J., said he would likely support Obama again because he felt the president was "someone who thinks things through" during tough times.

Officially, Obama is focused this fall on getting his jobs plan through Congress.

But he tends to show his more playful side at fundraisers, joking about things people can relate to: turning 50 and watching his hair get a little grayer.

In Denver, he told students he and the first lady graduated from law school with a combined debt of about $120,000. At a General Motors plant, Obama hopped in the front seat of a compact Chevy Sonic with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

Sports is one area where connecting with voters comes naturally.

During the 2008 campaign, Obama regularly played pickup basketball and famously sunk a three-pointer at a military base in Kuwait. For three straight years, the president has talked about his NCAA tournament bracket with ESPN's Andy Katz. Next month he stops in San Diego to watch a Michigan State-North Carolina basketball game on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson.

A longtime Chicago Bears' fan, Obama indulged every sports fan's fantasy when he invited the 1985 Super Bowl champions to the White House. The team's first visit was postponed because of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster and never rescheduled.

Obama joked about Jim McMahon's head bands, the Super Bowl Shuffle and rubbed elbows with former coach Mike Ditka.

"This is as much fun as I will have as president of the United States, right here," Obama said. "This is one of the perks of the job."

AP Deputy Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta and News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.

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