John Gregg smiled broadly, laughed and patted backs as he ambled from one packed lunch table to another at the restaurant.
He talked about what they were eating, their lives, their fall harvest.
Gregg, 58, is an old pro at this, getting people to enjoy themselves and his company. He is quick to laugh or tell one of his standard jokes — “I’m the guy with two first names running for governor” — or making reference to his most noticeable physical feature, his walrus-like mustache, which frequently is bracketed by lines in his smiling cheeks.
The gubernatorial candidate and attorney served in the Indiana House of Representatives from 1986 to 2002, including as speaker from 1996 to 2002.
His current campaign has been folksy, and for the most part civil — which goes against the grain in the current political climate. He’s also self-deprecating, having made fun of his lighter campaign coffers with purposefully low-budget political ads. But he is serious about his intentions — as much as those things might at first seem in conflict.
In the polls, he is well behind his Republican opponent Mike Pence. Nonetheless, Gregg’s enthusiasm — marked by him slapping his right fist into his open left palm, while telling them that the race is tightening — quickly spread to the crowd.