Obama seeks to renew 2008 success

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Afterward, Obama encountered Laketta Hussain, who was among a group waiting outside and was using a very old cell phone or a cordless phone to talk to her grandmother. Obama took the phone and spoke for a few minutes. "I'm doing good," he said, "except your granddaughter needs a new cell phone."

Obama is on the second day of a three-day tour through North Carolina and Virginia that is giving him a chance to sit back, 0admire the colorful fall foliage and bask in some small-town Southern hospitality - in addition to pounding on the Republicans.

"There's just something about North Carolina," he said Tuesday. "People are just gracious and kind. Even the folks who don't vote for me are nice to me." He recalled stopping for barbecue, sweet tea and hush puppies and playfully admonished the audience not to tell his health-conscious wife what he's been eating.

The stated purpose of the trip was to continue selling the jobs bill. But Obama is also selling himself, trying to pump up voters whose enthusiasm may have waned. That's particularly important in North Carolina, a state he wrested from Republicans in 2008 but that could slip from his grasp in November 2012.

To try to recapture some of his past appeal, Obama resorted to the retail politics often missing from the highly scripted White House.

Obama took his lunch of a cheeseburger, fries and sweet tea aboard his "decked out" bus and made a few unscheduled stops during the drive out of North Carolina and through Virginia along twisty backcountry roads past grain silos and fields of hay bales.

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