As the time neared for Barack Obama's speech to a huge crowd in Berlin, John McCain paid homage of a sort to Germany -- lunching Thursday at Schmidt's Restaurant und Sausage Haus in the historic German Village section of Columbus, Ohio.
The eatery choice was the latest in a Republican effort to none-too-subtly turn up its collective nose at Obama's appearance in the city that once personified the Cold War divide.
The Republican National Committee bought airtime for ads attacking Obama in three U.S. cities named Berlin, and then continued the schtick with broadcast plans for the spots in a trio of U.S. cities named Paris. (Obama will be stopping in the French capital as he wraps up his world tour.)
McCain ate a bratwurst at Schmidt's -- making a point of noting that the eatery has no link whatsoever to Steve Schmidt, the aide he recently tapped to ride herd over his campaign. And he indulged in a chocolate cream puff for dessert.
As he digested his Teutonic fare, McCain held a brief media availability and immediately pressed what is becoming one of his party's main narratives in this year's campaign: that Obama is prematurely, and arrogantly, assuming the trappings of the presidency.
Asked about the point he sought to make with his stop at Schmidt's, McCain said, "Well, I'd love to give a speech in Germany . . . but I would much prefer to do it as president of the United States rather than as a candidate for the office of the presidency."
As he fielded questions, wind chimes jangled.
McCain's restaurant of choice is a Columbus institution; the latest family member to run it is Geoff Schmidt, 58.
Schmidt told pool reporter Elizabeth Holmes of the Wall Street Journal that although he was not aware of a previous stop by a presidential candidate, lots of personages had frequented his place. That includes California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who helps host an annual bodybuilding and fitness event in Columbus.
Schmidt also showed skill in dealing with the national media.
Holmes reported that when she asked him if he was a Republican or a Democrat, Schmidt "grabbed your pooler by the arm, looked her in the eye and gave her a tight-lipped smile."
" 'We're Americans,' he said with a laugh. 'We serve everybody.' "
-- Don Frederick
Frederick is one of the writers of The Times' political blog, Top of the Ticket, at latimes.com/topoftheticket.