Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Politics

'Surprise' Obama visits make morning anything but routine

TAMPA — Every Thursday before 7 a.m., Trent Strauch buys four dozen doughnuts — all glazed, to prevent arguments — for the eighth-graders in his homeroom class.

But this Thursday's trip to Krispy Kreme was anything but routine.

The store on Kennedy Boulevard looked like a crime scene as lights flashed across the still-dark sky from police cruisers blocking traffic. Strauch, 46, got a pat-down before he could enter.

Within an hour, he became a highlight of national political reports.

"Can I just point out Trent is a math teacher," President Barack Obama told reporters packed inside the doughnut shop. "He's buying doughnuts for his kids. So that whole math-doughnut connection is the key to school reform, because I know his kids are doing great."

Obama spent about three hours on the ground here as part of his rally at Centennial Park in Ybor City. The visit will probably go down as a blip on his multi-state tour this week, though it's not how the few who shook his hand at two carefully orchestrated surprise visits will see it.

"To be perfectly honest, I am going to vote for Romney," Strauch, who teaches at St. John's Episcopal Parish Day School, said in an interview later. "But it's an absolute thrill — you're meeting the most powerful man in the world."

Employee Michelle Ross, 21, had no idea what was coming when she opened Krispy Kreme that morning. Things were already hectic, with a delivery truck running late and security officials turning away motorists seeking the drive-through at the store's peak hour.

Everything worked out, she said. She fetched three powdered cakes and one glazed doughnut for Obama, who bought them for a group of young boys sitting with their dad.

The presidential motorcade left Krispy Kreme after 10 minutes but did not go far, stopping at Tampa Fire Rescue Station No. 14 at 1325 S Church Ave. The stoic faces of 20 men and women in uniform betrayed some panic minutes earlier, when campaign officials told them they planned to swing by and asked if they had a basketball and net.

Obama toted a bag of three dozen doughnuts inside the station's garage — his way of saying "thank you for everything you guys do every day," he said.

Obama asked each firefighter for his or her name and years of service. He chuckled and hugged Lewis Bevell, who held a worn basketball and asked Obama to shoot some hoops out back.

"After we're done," Obama said. "I don't want to embarrass you in front of the cameras."

They pair ended up taking some shots away from reporters, who had been herded back into the motorcade vans by staff. A video of Obama's shots — the first two missed, the last one sunk — appeared on the president's YouTube page not long after.

Katie Sanders can be reached at [email protected]

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