MORRISVILLE, N.C. — Kevin Mote wiped the sweat from his bald head and sat down in a moment of relief.
He's been working extra hours this week, getting his business, Smokey's BBQ Shack, ready for a presidential candidate visit.
Mitt Romney, the presumptive GOP nominee, was scheduled to stop at the cozy restaurant on Sunday as part of his bus tour through Virginia, North Carolina and Florida.
Instead, Romney, and his newly-announced running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, will be headed to Ryan's home state of Wisconsin after their stop in High Point.
Kevin heard the news when he sat down with me in the dining room of Smokey's.
He said he was feeling a "cascade of emotion."
Prepping for a campaign event takes a good deal of behind-the-scenes work — not the least of which is dealing with the Secret Service.
Employees and volunteers had to give names, birth dates, Social Security numbers for background checks. Agents and advance teams visited the field behind the restaurant, where the event would be held.
Before this experience, Kevin said, he didn't have any idea just how much behind-the-scenes work was done to stage a campaign rally.
A crew was setting a stage and sound system in the field Saturday afternoon, ahead of the visit.
The Romney campaign said in a release that GOP gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory, U.S. Rep Renee Ellmers and Romney's son, Matt, would attend the Sunday afternoon event.
Still, the attention has been good for business, Kevin said. He's been through about 1,000 pounds of pork this week and brought some new faces through the door.
"It's been a real positive thing," Kevin said.
While fried chicken has recently become the leading political indicator of this election cycle, barbecue is very non-partisan, at least in North Carolina.
When a politician wants to tout his or her down-home roots or look like they are just one of the people, they go to the barbecue joints, where everyone, of all races, religions and political leanings, can sit down and break bread — or hush puppies — together.
When Barack and Michelle Obama vacationed in Asheville in 2010, they stopped at 12 Bones Smokehouse, in the arts district next to the French Broad District.
Wilbur's Barbecue, on U.S 70, just celebrated its 50th anniversary last month, and garnered a visit from Gov. Bev Perdue.
Walk in to any barbecue restaurant in North Carolina, no matter how big or small, and you'll find, on the walls with the other pork-related signs and chotchkies, pictures of politicians who have stopped in for a plate of pork and hush pups.
When word got out that Romney was going stop at Smokey's, a regular customer and friend by the name of Rusty, whom Kevin described as politically left-of-left, came in, shook his hand and congratulated him.
"It's what you hope for from your friends, and I consider him a friend," Kevin said. "We talk politics and agree to disagree."
Smokey's BBQ Shack has only been open for five years, and Kevin said this was the first political stop for his restaurant.
He said he agreed to host the rally not out of political desire, but because he knew it would be good for Morrisville.
"We've never given to any political campaign," he said. "What disposable income I have, I invest in the community."
Kevin's a leader in a local Boy Scout troop; his son, Eric, is an Eagle Scout. Any proceeds that Smokey's made from the Romney visit will be donated to an Eagle Scout project.
Kevin walked out back to see how the set-up crew was doing. A sound technician was testing the levels over monitors, playing Dave Matthews Band. Smokey's BBQ Shack will offer pork sliders and other appetizers to whoever shows up to the rally, but the restaurant will be closed.
Still, though, that's a lot of the barbecue to get ready.
Kevin talked with a couple of guys who came by to ask about the rally.
"What time is it?" he asked. It was about 3:30 p.m.
"Oh, I gotta get back to it. I have a catering order that's going out this evening," he said, walking back into the kitchen.