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Obama Casts Republicans as Slurpee Sippers

A Slurpee.

To hear President Obama tell it, Slurpees are the beverage of choice of obstructionist Republicans.

In each of 20 political speeches over the last two months, Mr. Obama has included a riff in which he portrays GOP leaders as sipping Slurpees while hard-working Democrats struggle to pull the economy out of a ditch.

"We're down there. It's hot. We were sweating. Bugs everywhere. We're down there pushing, pushing, pushing on the car. Every once in a while we'd look up and see the Republicans standing there. They're just standing there fanning themselves -- sipping on a Slurpee."

The line never fails to get a laugh, as it did Thursday afternoon at a Democratic rally at Bowie State University in Maryland. His audience laughs and Mr. Obama does too. He clearly gets a kick out of the image of GOP leaders sipping a slushy, ice-cold Slurpee while Democrats like himself nearly kill themselves to pull the economy out of the ditch of the GOP's making.

Though he doesn't mention any Slurpee-sipping Republicans by name, his rhetoric suggests an image of Senate and House Minority Leaders Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, dressed casually (perhaps in shorts and sneakers) with a couple of Big Gulp cups in their hands, sipping on 7-Eleven's sweet and glacial libation. You can almost see the extra-long flex-straw through which the leaders are sucking in their liquid refreshment.

Mr. Obama clearly thinks Republicans are elitist, but the line wouldn't be as funny if he said they were sipping Chardonnay or a Mint Julep.

The first time Mr. Obama used the line he equivocated about the type of beverage. He said the Republicans were "drinking on a Slurpee or something." By the fourth speech, he had settled on Slurpee, and has stuck with it in every political speech since.

He uses the refrain as a set-up to make his point that Republicans drove the economy into a ditch, and now won't lift a finger to help pull or push it out. But Mr. Obama's goes further, saying the Slurpee-sippin' Republicans try to supervise the Democratic efforts.

"You're not pushing fast enough! That's not how you do it! Do it this way! And so every once in a while we'd offer, 'Why don't you guys come down here, help us push?' No, no, no."

At times, Mr. Obama's delivery recalls the comedy cadence of Bill Cosby, especially his description of a conversation between God and Noah.

"Finally we get this car to level ground. Finally we're ready to move forward, go down that road once again of American prosperity, and what happens? They want the keys back. And what this election is about is saying to them, you cannot have the keys back. You do not know how to drive. You don't know how to drive. We're not going to let you take us in the ditch again."

His audience of Democratic supporters or contributors also gets a big laugh out of that segment. And then Mr. Obama drives his point home to its conclusion:

" When you are driving and you want to go forward, what do you do? You put your car in D. You want to go backwards? You put your car in R. We can't afford to reverse back into the ditch. We've got to go forward. That's what this election is about. That's what this election is about."

And that's what Mr. Obama's Slurpee riff is all about: persuading his Democratic base not to sit out this election with control of both chambers of Congress at stake.

Though I've asked a number of times, I can't get an answer from the White House yet on how and why the president came to portray top Republicans as Slurpee sippers.

Sen. McConnell's spokesman Don Stewart says he's never seen his boss anywhere near a Slurpee. And House GOP spokesman Michael Steel calls Pres Obama's Slurpee references "bizarre."

What do the folks at 7-Eleven, Inc. think about the repeated presidential references to their exclusive frozen drink?

"We don't have a comment on this," said a corporate spokesman curtly and bluntly.

Perhaps when the hubbub of the campaign has ended, and the winners revel in their triumph and the losers lick their wounds, Mr. Obama and Republican leaders can put their harsh rhetoric aside and talk things over. They could call it a Slurpee Summit.

Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow him on Twitter here:
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