WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama, in Manhattan on Tuesday to headline Democratic fundraisers, made a surprise stop at a Gap store at East 42nd and Third Avenue. He bought a blue workout jacket for first lady Michelle. 

Last month, the GAP chain moved to raise the minimum wage of its workers this year and next–and Obama used the visit to highlight his so far unsuccessful push for Congress to raise the federal minimum to $10.10 an hour by 2016. Obama has praised the Gap for the move.

According to the pool report, at the Gap, Obama “told a sales associate that he was doing some shopping for his wife, Michelle, and daughters Malia and Sasha. The employee offered a quick tour of some of the options, pointing out stacks of sweaters and some new spring arrivals.

“Eventually, Obama and the sales associate delved into sweaters in a rainbow of colors, holding up each choice and assessing what his daughters might like. The employee recommended a V-neck sweater, but the president gravitated toward the slightly more modest round-neck options, saying, “I’m worried the V-neck is going to slip.” Eventually, he settled on a gray and white striped sweater and a bright coral sweater for his daughters.

“The sales associate suggested that perhaps the first lady might like a hoodie, but the president said she seldom wears hoodies. He said she would like athletic gear and quickly picked out a blue workout jacket.

“I think the ladies will be impressed by my style sense,” Obama said.

“Who’s going to ring me up?” he asked as he approached the counter.

“A longtime Gap named Sonia volunteered, saying, “He’s better looking in person.”

“Although the employees tried to sell Obama on signing up for a Gap card — which would have made him eligible for a discount — the president declined. “I’ve got one card,” he said as he presented his credit card.

“Obama said he doesn’t always carry his wallet but made sure to bring it for this excursion. When Sonya told him that he could swipe his own card on the countertop card reader, Obama quipped, “Oh wow. So, you can sign the machine?” As the reporters in the pool started scribbling, he said he was teasing, adding, “They had these around the last time I shopped.”

“After paying for his purchases, the president spoke about the importance of raising the minimum wage and praised Gap for taking the initiative to bump up employees’ salaries.

“He said he would continue to push Congress to take action, but the Gap already was helping thousands of employees by raising salaries.

“It’s not only good for them and their families, it’s also good for the entire economy,” he said. “I want to congratulate the Gap for doing the right thing.”

Pool report by Colleen McCain Nelson, The Wall Street Journal.

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