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Bud vs. Miller on the Campaign Trail

It’s an age-old battle. “Miller Time” versus “The King of Beers.” Typically the stuff of TV ads, this week it played out on the presidential campaign trail.

Barak Obamba, Iowa State Fair
Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images
Barak Obamba, Iowa State Fair

It was “Miller Time” in Wisconsin as Representative Paul Ryanmade a triumphant return to his home state in his first stop as the new Republican vice-presidential candidate (Read more:Your Money, Your Vote). Speaking in the Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha, Ryan told the crowd: "My veins run with cheese, bratwurst, and a little Spotted Cow, Leine's, and some Miller."

It’s classic political stump speech material, the local politician professing his love for local products. First there was Spotted Cow, a craft brew from New Glarus Brewing that hasa cult-like status driven in part by its decision to limit distribution to the state of Wisconsin. Founded in 1993, New Glarus is the 19th largest craft brewer, based on 2011 sales volume, according to the Brewers Association. Spotted Cow, its flagship beer, has been the best-selling draft beer in Wisconsin for the last five years, according to the Associated Press.

As for “Leine’s,” aka Leinenkugel Brewing Company, the brewery has a deep Wisconsin heritage after being founded in Chippewa Falls in 1867. MillerCoors bought Leinenkugel in 1988 and the brand helped its Tenth and Blake craft beer division deliver double-digit growth in the most recent financial quarter. (Read more:MillerCoors Crafts Small Beer Strategy.)

Rep. Ryan also referenced Wisconsin icon Miller, maker of Miller Lite, among other brands, and the fourth best-selling beer in the country, according to SymphonyIRI data. So what does MillerCoors think about Rep. Ryan giving its brands a shout out in his highly anticipated and publicized debut speech? MillerCoors officials say they are “glad Rep. Ryan has such good taste in beer.”

Paul Ryan, Iowa State Fair
Getty Images
Paul Ryan, Iowa State Fair

As for the “King of Beers,” it received national attention when President Barack Obama stopped by the 65-year-old Bud Tent at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. A presidential stop at the Bud Tent has become a political tradition of sorts with Obama being the fourth sitting president to visit the Bud Tent, joining his predecessors: Eisenhower (1954), Ford (1975) and George W. Bush (2002).

During his stop at the Bud Tent, Obama implored those gathered to support the beer vendor by buying a beer. What happened next made newscasts and newspapers across the country:

POTUS: “Hey everybody, who's over 21, you've gotta buy a beer. Alright?"

Person in the crowd: "Is it on you?

POTUS: "Let me see how much I got in my wallet...”

Crowd: “Four more beers” (chanting)

POTUS: "Four more beers? Ok. Here's—what I'm going to, here's what I'm going to do. Except for the person with the Romney sign, I'm teasing, I'm going to buy ten beers. Who wants one?" (cheers.)

While the moment went viral, there is one person that was not pleased to be caught in the presidential spotlight: the Bud Tent’s owner, Mike Cunningham II. He is a third generation owner of the tent and says while he appreciates the history behind a presidential visit, he told the Des Moines Register that Obama’s stop was bad for his bottom line. Cunningham says the Bud Tent was shut down for “at least” two hours of prime sales time to accommodate Obama’s visit, which he says probably cost him $25,000 in sales.

While Bud may have been the beneficiary of a staged campaign event, Obama has voluntarily reached for a Bud in public many times before, including ordering a draft Bud Light last night at a campaign stop at the Pump Haus in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Despite being an occasional "Bud Man,” Obama does have a home-brewing streak in him. (Read More: Brewing Issue: What Beer Should the President Drink?)

In fact, the White House says the president’s campaign bus is stocked with White House home brew.

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com. Follow Tom Rotunno on Twitter @tomrotunno.

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