That was Donald Trump’s approach between campaign rallies in the battleground state on Tuesday. The Republican nominee stopped for lunch and a few handshakes at Stamey’s Barbecue in Greensboro.
Retail stops like this are common in politics – especially during the primary season – and they’re often a chance for both voters and reporters to ask questions. But at this stage of the campaign, they feel more choreographed – requiring careful planning and a team of Secret Service agents scouring the place beforehand.
Nonetheless, there was a measure of spontaneity for diners and servers who came to the restaurant anticipating a barbecue sandwich or a routine day at work – certainly not a visit from the Republican presidential nominee.
Katie Cook, who works in the kitchen, audibly gasped several times as Trump walked in.
“It’s awesome – definitely he’s got my vote,” Cook said. She’d only heard Trump was coming about 10 minutes beforehand, and she said it was a surprise.
As the real estate developer made the rounds flanked by staffers and his security team, journalists shouted, “Mr. Trump, will you take some questions?” The AP’s Jill Colvin called out, “Mr. Trump, when did you change your mind about the birther issue? When did you decide that President Obama was actually born in the United States?”
Trump had refused to answer those questions on Friday at a media event in Washington, D.C., where he praised his new hotel development, honored a group of veterans – and then briefly acknowledged that President Obama was indeed born in the United States while making a false claim that doubts about Obama’s birthplace were started by Hillary Clinton. Trump then abruptly departed the room.
For years, Trump was the most vocal advocate for the “birther” movement questioning Obama’s legitimacy to be president. He has yet to explain …