Bus tour contest winner Jeff Armes dishes on his Presidential meeting...
The Obama campaign on Tuesday released the photo, above, of President Obama inside 'Ground Force One,' the huge, armored, high-tech $1.1 million bus he used for last week's 'Betting on America' culinary odyssey through Ohio and Pennsylvania. Mr. Obama is pictured seated in the bus at a dinner table for four, complete with cup holders, with Jeff Armes and his wife Cheri Armes of Massachusetts, who won an online campaign contest to ride with the President. Mr. Obama made his maiden voyage on the motor coach in August of 2011, and previous official photos of the inside have only shown the President waving out the huge front window, but not the interior. (Above: The President with Cheri, center, and Jeff Armes)
The Massachusetts couple climbed aboard the bus with the President on Day 1 of his trip, July 5th, after Air Force One landed at Ohio's Toledo Express Airport, Jeff Armes said in a post today on BarackObama.com.
"We got to go out on the tarmac and stand next to the bus and wait for Air Force One," Armes said. "He came down the stairs and walked right over to us—he already knew our names. He said, 'Hi, Cheri! Hi, Jeff!' He shook my hand and gave my wife a hug. I was just elated."
"And then we got on the bus, sat down at a little table, and just started talking. My wife and I are still just floating up in the air."
The bus has a front seating area with two chairs and a sofa, as well as two other sections further back, including the table with two leather recliner chairs and a bench with pillows, where the photo of the President and the winning couple was taken. The coach is fully equipped with security and communications devices, and has phones, flat-screen TVs, an under-the-counter refrigerator, a microwave oven, and a toilet. The interior features of the bus were created by the Hemphill Brothers, in Nashville, Tenn, who outfit motor coaches for movie stars and musicians.
The outer "shell" of the bus was designed by Canadian coach manufacturer Prevost, which was the subject of many headlines when the President took his maiden voyage in 2011. Such "outsourcing" has become a hot topic in the 2012 race: During his stump speeches on the bus tour, the President blasted presumptive GOP presidential challenger Mitt Romney for outsourcing.
"Governor Romney’s experience has been in owning companies that were called "pioneers" of outsourcing. That's not my phrase -- "pioneers" of outsourcing," the President told a crowd in Maumee, Ohio, as the Armeses sat behind him on the stage.
The President repeated the factoid during his other appearances as he stumped across the battleground states. Click here for links to all posts about the President's edible adventures in the rustbelt.
A native of Michigan, Armes credits the success of his chimney sweeping business to help from the President's Recovery Act. (Above: The President greets the couple outside the bus at the airport)
"I told him, 'That stimulus plan, Mr. President, it worked very well for me. That's how I expanded my shop,'" Armes said. "It definitely brought a grin to his face when I told him how much I liked the Recovery Act."
The Obama campaign flew the Armes to Ohio, and put them up in a hotel as part of the contest. The push for contest entries, which closed on June 30, the last day for donations for the month, included e-mails from staff and First Lady Michelle Obama. The President raised $71 million in June, which the campaign is repeatedly warning is not enough to beat Romney.
The exterior of the bus has no markings, and is shiny black. It is equipped with sirens and flashing lights. One of two buses acquired by the Secret Service in 2011 for protective transport of any official, dignitary, presidential candidate or protectee, the bus is owned by the government. The codename for the bus during last year's rural tour was "Stagecoach." Above, one of the previously released official photos of the President waving out the front window of the bus in 2011, as he rolled through Harmony, Minn., on Aug. 15, during his maiden voyage on the bus.
Top two photos by Obama for America; third by Pete Souza/White House