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Obama sits down with average Americans


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COLUMBUS, Ohio – Admittedly wary of losing touch, President Barack Obama returned to the comfort of backyard politics, assuring a polite gathering of middle-class neighbours that the economy is coming around “slowly but surely”.At the brick-and-shingle house of the Weithman family, Obama’s questioners showed no interest in the divisive midterm elections or other matters gobbling up the political debate. They wanted to know what he was doing on jobs, health care, pensions and child care. In turn, Obama got what he wanted: a sunny platform to engage voters and promote his agenda.Obama hadn’t even left the property, though, before he got off message by answering a reporter’s shouted question about a national controversy – plans for a mosque and community centre near the site of the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York. Obama said he had “no regrets” about his stand that Muslims have the right to build the mosque.In the midst of a fund raising tour that has generated more than $3 million for Democrats, Obama seemed refreshed to be having his chat in the Weithmans’ backyard.The neighbours sat scattered in lawn chairs and picnic tables. The president held forth with a microphone, jacket off, sleeves rolled up, as if he were just talking with old friends. Reporters were packed in all the way to the tomato garden.“Look, I’ll be honest with you,” Obama said over the whirring of lawn mowers in the distance. “Sometimes when you’re in Washington, you get caught up with the particular legislative battles or, you know, the media spin on certain issues. “And sometimes you lose touch in terms of what folks are talking about around the kitchen table.”So no one missed the point, Obama actually sat at the kitchen table with Joe and Rhonda Weithman and their two kids.His broader talk with neighbours predictably centred on the economy, with unemployment at 9.5 per cent nationally and topping 10 per cent in Ohio. Obama took questions about how to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States, how to breathe life into the sagging housing market and how the mammoth health care law he signed will provide real help to people. (AP)

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