With 30 months left in the White House, President Obama is craving the trappings of everyday America.
From impromptu visits to Starbucks and Chipotle, to joining the herds of tourists along Pennsylvania Avenue and the National Mall, Obama is showing increased eagerness to break out of his highly-controlled Washington bubble.
On Thursday, Obama will “spend a day” with a Minnesota mother, visiting her home in Minneapolis and discussing what her life is like, the White House says. It will be the first in a “series of day-in-the-life visits” across the country this summer to allow Obama to talk with people about the issues that matter to them.
The president will “get a real sense of what’s happening in America,” said senior White House adviser Dan Pfieffer in a promotional video message posted to YouTube.
You could call it a case of campaign withdrawal. The second-term president who’s thrived on stump speeches and grassroots rallies, stops in small town coffee shops and visits to factories, is looking for new ways to stay connected.
Obama says in a White House video that the people he will meet with this summer have written him compelling personal letters about their lives and their struggles.
While presidential excursions to meet “real” people are nothing new, Obama has signaled that he’s inclined to go rogue more often because of a general sense of confinement at home, and frustration with a stalled agenda in Congress.
The president recently likened the situation to being caged in a zoo.
“Every once in a while, I’m able to sneak off… I’m sort of like the circus bear that kind of breaks the chain, and I start taking off, and everybody starts whispering, the bear’s loose,” Obama said last month.
Recently, he left the White House compound so quickly, and without notice, for an unannounced stroll down Pennsylvania Avenue that the press pool which normally tags along for his outings frantically chased from behind.
Obama took a surprise walk to the Interior Department late last month for a ceremony designating a new national monument. He also recently detoured the presidential motorcade to visit a local Little League game, where then-press secretary Jay Carney’s daughter was going to play.
“I think the president, like many of his predecessors, has talked about the challenge that's posed by the presidential bubble, that one of the things this president misses the most is the ability to walk down the street and talk to people,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest.
Obama also apparently misses eating like the rest of us, too.
On Monday, before attending the White House summit on working families, Obama walked across the street for lunch at a Chipotle restaurant, where he ordered a burrito from the counter and ate at a roundtop table.
"It's been awhile since I had the burrito bowl," he said after lunch.
Earlier in the month, Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan went for an impromptu burger lunch at FireFlies in Alexandria, Va. A few weeks before that it was a trip to Shake Shack with Vice President Biden.
Obama told ABC’s Michael Strahan last month that he dreams of breaking out of his bubble, unrecognized, for a casual night on the town.
“I would just walk out this gate. I might walk up to the Lincoln Memorial, sit on there. Maybe I'd wander around and find myself at a little outdoor cafe or sit and order something and just watch people go by,” he said. “The thing you miss most about being president is anonymity.”