At happy hour Thursday at Ziggy's Bar in Amherst, Ohio, President Obama was seen one minute gripping a glass of draft Miller Lite and another holding a cold bottle of Bud. It was not mere coincidence.
The carefully orchestrated scene, meant to appeal to the loyalties of a diverse working-class crowd, is a hallmark of the Obama message machine, one that has appeared to be on its A-game during a debut two-day, two-state bus tour.
"I had a beer in Amherst, at Ziggy's, so I'm feeling good," Obama told a crowd of supporters in Parma, Ohio, Thursday night.
"Feeling steady," he said with a grin.
Images of Obama with a brew appeared on newspaper front pages Friday across the state.
Beer aside, and the flat June jobs report notwithstanding, there are plenty of reasons for the president to feel the way he does.
With meticulous attention to detail, Team Obama has generated a bevy of positive local media headlines on its swing through Ohio and Pennsylvania, two must-win states. His team has also lodged a fresh round of negative attacks on vacationing rival Mitt Romney, who has struggled to respond.
First, there was the White House announcement of new trade enforcement action against China, timed conveniently to the tour's kick-off through manufacturing states. On the road, Obama celebrated it, along with his auto bailout, to some of the tour's loudest applause.
Before manicured patriotic backdrops in town parks and diners, Obama presented a soft and personal side, highlighting stories about his family and upbringing, a new emphasis in his stump aimed at reconnecting with the blue-collar base.
On four stops, Obama only mentioned Romney a handful of times by name; he never said the word 'Bain.' Meanwhile, Obama's surrogates and senior strategists launched a parallel attack campaign, pounding Romney for his "Bermuda Triangle" of secretive offshore finances, backed by unflattering reports on the same topic by the Associated Press and Vanity Fair.
Then there were Thursday's local TV interviews - six of them - the Obama campaign ordered embargoed with timed release this morning in order to drive the second-day bus tour news. Obama used a chat with the Cincinnati NBC affiliate to break his silence on the health law mandate penalty-tax debate and go on the attack. The upside for Obama: All the media attention is free and permeating the state, even areas that are not so "blue."
And while facing a less-than-stellar jobs report, attacked by Romney as a "kick in the gut," Obama's itinerary was selected to put him in geographic ground zero of where recovery is taking hold. Auto sector employment, for example, grew by 6,700 jobs in June alone, the government reported. Ohio and Pennsylvania also have unemployment rates that have been steadily on the decline and below the national average, at 7.5 percent.
It's also no accident that Obama will footnote jobs report day, and his "Betting on America" tour, by returning to the White House to sign a bill that represents a small legislative victory: funding for infrastructure projects across the country (read: jobs for workers) and an extension of federal student loan rates that had been set to double.
After a rocky June, Obama's campaign has shown in the past two days that it's heading into July firing on all cylinders.