COURSEY: Come to Sonoma County for a real beer, Mr. President

Kudos to President Barack Obama for elevating the political debate to a level befitting a campaign for the most important job in the land.

We're talking about beer here, folks.

Today's entry in the "let's put policy aside and talk about important stuff" sweepstakes comes from the Washington Post, which notes that the president suddenly seems fixated on beer.

He talked about having "pork chop and beer" at the Iowa State Fair (to his wife's chagrin). At a coffee shop, he talked about the new homebrewing operation at the White House. He spoke "longingly" of the beer he expected on the campaign bus at the end of the day. Crowds "drank it up," the Post reported, chanting "Four more beers!"

Beer is something that most red-blooded Americans can get a grip on — unlike, say, Mitt Romney's tax returns. And that's why it makes so much political sense for the president to let voters know that he's really into beer.

It doesn't hurt that it also reminds voters that, as a Mormon, the GOP candidate doesn't drink beer. What kind of American is that?

The Post reports that beer is most popular with the very voters Obama and Romney are trying to win: middle-American independents. A higher percentage of those swing voters say they've had a beer in the past 30 days, compared to Democrats and Republicans. And, it turns out independents are even bigger fans of microbrews — the kind of stuff that Obama has his staff brewing in the White House kitchen.

This seems like a slam-dunk for the president, considering his opponent is a teetotaler. But Obama should be careful that beer doesn't just become another wedge issue in the culture wars, like fast food from Chick-fil-A or coffee from Starbucks, depending upon your view of gay marriage.

Seriously, this is a touchy subject. The president can't pass himself off as a real fan of microbrews when his drink of choice at the much-ballyhooed 2009 "beer summit" in the White House garden was Bud Light. That beer may make the unions happy, but it won't endear him to the 45 percent of feisty independents who said they drank a microbrew in the past month.

Microbrew fans even may look askance at his list of brews fermenting in the White House kitchen: White House Honey Ale, White House Honey Blonde Ale and White House Honey Porter. Why all the honey? Well, Michelle Obama does produce honey from the White House garden.

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