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Obama at the Sports Bar

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama D-Ill., talks as he eats a chicken wing at Murads' Sports Bar in Charleston, W.Va., March 20, 2008. (AP.)

By Jonathan Weisman
CHARLESTON, W.V. -- Barack Obama went trolling for votes with the white working class voters that have always given him trouble, in the best place he could find them -- a sports bar in the full bloom of March Madness.

"I'm fishing for a few votes around here. At least I can show off my basketball knowledge," he confessed at Murad's on 35th Street, on a muddy street in Charleston.

Over limp chicken wings and the blare of basketball, Obama and the Murads' patrons talked bracketology, energy policy, health care and hot sauce.

Jeff Lynch, 48, a Michigander passing through, asked him when he'd have a chance to vote for him, and Obama did not mince words. As far as he was concerned, the hopes of a revote in Michigan are over.

"Probably the general election. A re-do vote is very complicated," he shrugged.
Obama's basketball picks were admittedly impolitic, at least locally. He gave the West Virginia Mountaineers no chance to beat the University of Arizona tonight.

Obama took some ribbing for his choice of Pitt to go to the Final Four, just ahead of the Pennsylvania primary, but he insisted he had no ulterior motives. "They're peaking at the right time."

How does he know so much?

"When you get back to the hotel, I don't watch the games. I watch Sports Center," he said, "because you definitely don't watch a bunch of news," he added, gesturing to the crush of cameras around him. "I don't want to watch myself."

What he didn't seem too thrilled with were the wings, which were on the pale side. He took one -- reluctantly, then gamely offered, "That's a pretty tasty wing. I don't know if the hot sauce is all that hot."

It might just be working. Derek Buzzard, 30, a burley paralegal with a shaved head and earrings, seemed impressed.

"I just came to catch a game on TV," Buzzard said. "I think he might be able to do it. I like him."

By Web Politics Editor  |  March 20, 2008; 5:51 PM ET
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