LAVAL, Quebec (Reuters) - Danielle Sarkisian jumped up and down on the chair she was standing on at the Village Grec restaurant as if she were 13, not 63, and squeaked: “I don’t want to wash my hand.”
In a crush of supporters and media, she had just shaken hands with Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, the front-runner in next Monday’s Canadian election, and had goosebumps.
Her reaction had echoes of the Trudeaumania that swept Pierre Trudeau to the prime minister’s office in 1968, with father and son possessing an appeal more common in movie stars than statesmen.
Pierre once jumped from a trampoline into the crowd. Justin thrusts himself into throngs and puts his hand to his heart when listening to someone.
Sarkisian, who had also met Pierre Trudeau, said Justin was more accessible, and observers have said the son is better in crowds than his father, who could be aloof but had a flair for showmanship.
Selfie requests are so common the 43-year-old happily takes the camera and snaps the photo himself, often cheek to cheek.
He started the Liberal campaign in third place, behind the governing Conservatives of 56-year-old Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and the New Democrats of 60-year-old Thomas Mulcair.
Fewer people stop his grey-haired rivals to take pictures together. For Harper, it always seems he would rather be studying a policy file than going through a throng.
Growing up in the spotlight may have made Justin Trudeau comfortable in a crowd. He was born on Christmas Day, 1971, the first of three sons to live at the prime minister’s house in Ottawa.
He is often called upon to sign posters or mementoes of his father during campaign stops.
Gerry Phillips, 75, organized political rallies for Pierre Trudeau and was at a stop outside a campaign office in Ajax, Ontario, on Wednesday to see Justin.
“Pierre was always slightly more reserved than Justin but had a similar optimistic view of the country,” he recalled.
At a stop in Montreal on Thursday, Jade Sambrook, a 37-year-old political science student, said it was good to have a leader from his generation.
“I don’t want to say it’s the Canadian version of Barack Obama, but Justin Trudeau is invigorating, is inspiring, he’s positive,” Sambrook said.
Additional reporting by Rod Nickel; Editing by Louise Ireland