US politics: The squeeze goes on Obama

President Barack Obama, right, is picked-up and lifted off the ground by Scott Van Duzer, left, owner of Big Apple Pizza and Pasta Italian Restaurant during an unannounced stop. Photo / AP
President Barack Obama, right, is picked-up and lifted off the ground by Scott Van Duzer, left, owner of Big Apple Pizza and Pasta Italian Restaurant during an unannounced stop. Photo / AP

President Barack Obama reputedly loves nothing more than a good old campaign trail hug - but he may have got more than he bargained for overnight.

Obama was lifted at least a foot in the air in an intense bear hug by hulking pizza shop owner Scott Van Duzer, during a bus tour of Florida.

"Look at that!" the president said once the 113-kilogramme, 1.90-metre registered Republican had deposited him back on terra firma.

"Man are you a powerlifter or what?

"Scott, let me tell you, you are like the biggest pizza shop owner I've ever seen," Obama said.

"If I eat your pizza will I look like that?"

Van Duzer, owner of Big Apple Pizza and Pasta, later told reporters he had voted for Obama in 2008 and planned to do so again in November, despite being registered with the president's rival Republican Party.

"I don't vote party line, I vote who I feel comfortable with, and I do feel extremely comfortable with him," Van Duzer said, adding he had been "just overcome with excitement," and hoisted the president aloft.

Obama said he had stopped his black armored bus at the pizza shop as Van Duzer had mobilised a huge community blood donors operation, receiving commendations from the White House and the US surgeon general.

"Here's an example of somebody who is doing well but he's also giving back," he said. "What we know is that the guy's just got a big heart along with big pecs."

Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki mentioned only on Saturday that Obama, who dives into restaurants and diners along the routes of his bus tours, loves interacting with voters.

"The only thing the president likes more than a bus tour is a hug," she said.

- AFP

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