As the 2012 presidential election winds down, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have revealed plenty about their views and how they would like to be viewed by the American people by what they consume. Both candidates understand that eating the right food is a great way to connect with key demographics, and consuming comfort food has become a staple of both candidates in their time spent on the road in battleground states.
President Obama has fully embraced this concept, making many unannounced stops during his campaign at local eateries, purchasing fresh produce at farms and eating plenty of classic American food like bacon, eggs, grits, buffalo wings, ribs, iced tea and Miller Lite. Romney has made far less unannounced stops, probably because of the high risk involved of making a crucial error that could be photographed instantly. However he still found time to stop at several family ice cream parlors and suburban Chipotle’s.
Certain cuisines hold more water with voters than others, and the right meal can turn any politician into an average Joe in the eyes of the voters, assuming the meal is convincing enough. In the 18th century politicians threw huge barbecues to garner support, attracting thousands of travelers and treating them to free liquor and roasted pig. Barbecues still hold water as a valid political tool, symbolizing ‘carnal instinct’ and a way to prove to voters just how tough politicians can be. According to an American Studies reader at the University of Leeds, “the sheer meatiness of a barbecue can help create the image of someone who doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty or blanch at the sight of blood.” Now campaign food stops have mostly replaced barbecues, though each candidate’s behavior around alcohol is markedly different.
President Obama recently began to incorporate beer in his campaign strategy to show that he is from a different generation than past candidates and he allows himself to indulge. The President recently revealed his White House beer recipe, and handed a mean in Iowa a bottle of his own home-brew, confirming he takes them on his campaign bus. At a Bud Light tent Obama bought a round of beer for the nearby crowd, to chants of “Four More Beers!” Consuming beer as well stopping at 24 hour diners and burger joints has acted like an equalizer for Obama, eliminating rumors of elitism.
Obama’s fondness for beer also highlights the somewhat Puritanical ideologies of some conservative supporters of Romney. Conservative voters may shy away from Obama’s fondness for beer, and criticize it as lazy or over-indulgent. Romney’s habits are far chaster, throwing pancake breakfasts hosted by his family in battleground states. Romney’s Mormon beliefs keep him away from alcohol as well as coffee, though ice cream parlors have been a favorite stop for his whole family, giving him a chance to talk about his five children and his 43 year long marriage.
However Mitt Romney has been an ardent fast food supporter, spotted eating publicly at Carl’s Jr., Chipotle and Little Caesars. Romney’s campaign has publicly supported many of these establishment to demonstrate that Romney is a regular guy eating at common restaurants, and supports corporations that create jobs and economic growth. The Romney campaign also spends several hundred dollars a month at controversial fast-food chain Chick-fil-A.
Obama has only taken the fast food route at a Five Guys restaurant three years, preferring to support local establishments. Ultimately every aspect of these candidate’s lives are scrutinized, down to every meal they eat. Many restaurant owners feel their food is much less politically charged than the media seems to believe.
“We sell cheese and smoked meats and delicious homemade turkey breast. Nothing about that is partisan,” said Debra Krause-McDonnell, owner of Krause’s in Cincinnati, Ohio. An Obama campaign commercial featured an image of Krause’s storefront without permission from the owner. She responded by going on national news to remove the video, feeling that she was used as a political pawn. However food does play an undeniably important role on modern politics, and are an excellent window for Americans to relate to their candidates.
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