Bear-Hugged Obama, Pizza Guy: Rallying Floridians Post-Debate

Photograph by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo

President Barack Obama gets a hug by Scott Van Duzer, left, owner of Big Apple Pizza and Pasta Italian Restaurant during an unannounced stop in Ft. Pierce, Fla., in this file photo.

Move over, Bill Clinton, the pizza guy is back.

Who could forget Scott Van Duzer, the burly Republican pizza shop owner and Obama supporter from Fort Pierce, Florida, who lifted President Barack Obama off the ground in a bear hug this summer when Obama visited his restaurant?

Van Duzer, 46, who was a guest of First Lady Michelle Obama at last night’s presidential debate in Boca Raton, also warmed up a boisterous crowd of 11,000 at President Barack Obama’s rally this morning in Delray Beach.

“I’m a Republican — but hold it there,” he said to hoots and cheers as he promoted Obama. “I’m voting for him again.”

He joked that while Secret Service agents had their own reasons for remembering the bear hug, he would remember the experience for “the confidence that he gave me” and “how down-to-earth and genuinely sincere he was.”

“Here was the leader of the free world and he was talking to me like we were old high school buddies,” Van Duzer said. “I’m telling you, this guy is for real.”

Van Duzer said that, under Obama, “My business is better off than it was four years ago” and that Romney is “a politician who will say anything to get elected.”

As Obama took to the stage, the men raised their hands above their shoulders and clasped hands and moved their heads toward one another, sort of a “high-ten” mixed with an embrace. Van Duzer refrained, this time, from lifting the president off the ground.

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