Obama searches for votes and high-calorie food

GREENWOOD, Indiana (Reuters) - As polls opened in Indiana and North Carolina, White House hopeful Barack Obama stopped by a family-style diner on Tuesday in search of a few votes and an eggs-and-potato breakfast he hoped would help him pack a few pounds (kg) onto his lean frame.

The Democratic senator from Illinois, who pushes a message of change, often says he doesn’t fit the image of a typical U.S. politician because he is a “skinny black guy” with a funny name.

But several voters recently have told the candidate he should bulk up, including a construction worker in Evansville who said Obama looked like he needed to eat a little more.

The senator, who says he’s lost about eight pounds, seems to be listening.

“I’m trying to fatten up,” Obama said on Tuesday as he tucked into a large omelet, fried potatoes and toast.

For breakfast the day before, Obama ate every bite of a platter of scrambled eggs, sausages and biscuits while chatting with workers at a union hall. Later in North Carolina, he had some lemon pound cake at one restaurant and bought a takeout box of chicken wings at another one shortly after that.

Obama, the national front-runner for his party’s White House nomination, lost the April 22 Pennsylvania primary to rival Hillary Clinton, a senator from New York, largely because of lukewarm support from blue-collar workers.

Visiting coffee shops and eating corn dogs and barbecue are time-honored staples of U.S. politicking, but some pundits have said the health-conscious Obama has at times seemed a little too abstemious when offered chocolates and other treats.

They have said he could boost his “regular-guy” credentials with a few more cheeseburgers and ice cream sundaes.

Not all of the calories from Obama’s egg breakfast are likely to stick. The senator works out every day, often on a treadmill or an elliptical machine. He also lifts weights.

As he often does to work off stress on voting days, Obama took a break in the afternoon to play basketball.

He blamed his weight loss on the rigors of the campaign. But with Tuesday’s contests expected to be close and the general election looming in November, that’s one thing that is unlikely to change.

Editing by Doina Chiacu