Don't worry, Beto O'Rourke asks before he stands on counters

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke campaigned during his 2012 congressional race on a platform that called for "significant" spending cuts and tax increases to balance the federal budget, along with possibly changing Social Security to address the United States' "extravagant government" and "out of control" debt.

(CNN) -- Beto O'Rourke's habit of standing on things -- especially counters -- has become a point of public fascination, spawning memes and Twitter accounts in the early days of his campaign.

But don't worry.

He asks first.

It started on the former Texas congressman's first morning as a presidential candidate, in Burlington, Iowa. Midway through his speech at the Beancounter Coffeehouse & Drinkery, O'Rourke, who had been standing behind the counter, climbed onto it.

Pictures immediately hit social media, and O'Rourke -- already known for becoming a viral sensation during his failed Senate bid last year -- had his first one of the 2020 campaign.

At the Beancounter -- like the other stops where O'Rourke has climbed on up -- he got permission first. Either O'Rourke or his road manager, Cynthia Cano, has asked those working in the shops -- or he's been told ahead of time he is welcome to stand on the counter.

The Beancounter's owner, Suann Wells, said O'Rourke and his staff were "very polite and kind."

"They asked permission before Beto hopped up on the counter," she said. "The crowd was pretty large and loud and he wasn't able to be seen while standing on the floor."

And then O'Rourke did it again, at the Sing-A-Long Bar and Grill in Mount Vernon, Iowa. And again, at the Central Park Coffee Company in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. And again, at Cargo Coffee in Madison, Wisconsin.

By the time he arrived in Michigan this week, it had become something he was known for -- and one shop made room ahead of time, expecting that he might need it.

"We were already aware of his countertop speeches, so we cleared the space and prepared in anticipation," said Sabrina Swain, the co-owner and general manager of Narrow Way Café & Shop in Detroit, where O'Rourke campaigned Monday.

"It did not bother us at all," Swain said, "and we even lended a hand in helping him onto the counter."

O'Rourke's campaign has chosen to fill his first weeks on the campaign trail with stops at small venues -- creating an atmosphere of intimacy, which allows voters to approach him directly, but also avoids the risks of empty spaces and makes certain that wherever he goes, the venue is full and the crowd is spilling onto the sidewalk.

So the leaps onto counters are largely about practicality: the Texan is tall, but the television cameras that surround him block out many attendees' views unless he is elevated.

Several Twitter accounts are now tracking O'Rourke's movements of all types -- including @BetoOnCounters.

When O'Rourke arrived at Amélie's French Bakery and Café in Rock Hill, South Carolina, on Friday, there was no counter to be found.

So O'Rourke stood on a chair -- set aside for him by the café's staff -- instead.

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