The Tastee Sub Shop in New Jersey served one of its most famous customers ever on Wednesday – President Barack Obama, who is headed to the New York area to step up fundraising efforts and tout his small business plan as the midterm elections draw closer.
Obama spoke at the sandwich shop in Edison, N.J., to tout a lending initiative aimed at small businesses.
"Helping small businesses, cutting taxes, making credit available," Obama said from a presidential lectern that had been brought into the restaurant. "This is as American as apple pie. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. They are central to our identity as a nation. They are going to lead this recovery."
He grabbed lunch at the relatively nondescript sub shop in Edison, N.J., where the most expensive item on the menu is $8.83.
Obama ordered a "Super Sub," which is packed with a variety of sandwich meats. The president begged off on getting the 12-inch version, noting that he is about to turn 49 and needs to go for a sandwich one-half the size.
“We couldn’t be more honored," said the business' part owner David Thornton.
Thornton, 57, who has owned the sub shop since 1972 with business partner Carl Padovano, said he thinks White House officials chose his place to have lunch and stage a photo-opp because the shop has been an institution in the Edison since 1963.
“We suspect that it’s because of our long-time standing in the community," he said.
From there he was to travel to New York to tape an interview with the daytime talk show "The View'' and attend two high-dollar fundraisers for the Democratic National Committee.
Obama is headlining four Democratic fundraisers in three days and hosting another four events next week. For now he's playing it safe, holding the eight events in noncompetitive states or in a competitive place where he's sure to be embraced: his home state of Illinois.
White House officials say Obama will campaign vigorously throughout the nation ahead of the fall elections.
"The fall campaign boils down to a choice between those who want to keep moving forward and those that want to take us back to the policies that got us into this mess,'' said White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer. "The president will help make that case across the country.''
Obama's election-year argument is taking shape: Despite unemployment that continues to hover near 10 percent, he wants voters to make a choice in November between his policies, which he says are pointing the country in the right direction, and those of the GOP, which he says led the country into recession in the first place.
Among the areas where the White House sees an opportunity to draw a line between the two parties is the lending initiative that Obama says will spur hiring and job growth by helping small businesses.
The measure pending in the Senate would create a new lending fund to help community banks offer loans, help states encourage more private-sector lending and eliminate capital gains taxes for certain investments in small businesses, among other steps.
While two Republican senators joined with Democrats last week to advance the measure, other GOP lawmakers have called the bill another bank bailout that would do little to increase lending to small businesses.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday that he hopes to schedule a Senate vote on the bill for Wednesday evening, though he would need Republican support to vote that soon. Republican leaders said they would like the opportunity to offer amendments.