Barack Obama: What He's Like When Cameras Are Off

Barack Obama
Barack Obama

I sat down with Barack Obama to talk about the economy earlier this week in Raleigh, North Carolina. Our conversation aired in full last night on CNBC as part of our Your Money, Your Vote special, which also included Maria Bartiromo's interview with John McCain.

A couple of my colleagues back at CNBC headquarters thought Obama looked subdued and serious during the interview. "He needs to lighten up," one of them said.

But of course they didn't the Obama I saw off camera, who was plenty loose. In fact, Obama has been personally engaging on each of the few occasions I have spent time with him individually.

On a stiflingly hot day, he walked into our small interview room on the North Carolina State Fairgrounds with a bounce in his step, having just two days earlier seen Democratic primary rival Hillary Clinton suspend her campaign and endorse him. Accompanied by his personal aide Reggie Love--like me, a Duke University graduate but, unlike me, also a star athlete who played football and basketball for Duke--Obama reveled in the first round of golf he had shot in a year. He shot in the low 90s at the famed Medina course, fulfilling his pledge to play with Paul Tewes, who ran his successful Iowa caucus campaign.

John McCain is just as charming in small settings, which is one reason this campaign will be so interesting--including the Town Hall meetings the two have promised to hold together.

P.S. One unusual note I found interesting: another Obama aide made a point of removing the labels on the water bottles we had hand for our interview. He was taking care to avoid any suggestion of product endorsement. I had never encountered that level of fastidiousness on that subject.