Politicians Choke on Food and Drink Issues

From a Wall Street Journal story by Kristina Peterson headlined “Political Candidates Choke on Food, Drink Issues”:

For decades, Joe O’Dea poured his beer over ice in peace. Then he ran for the U.S. Senate.

Controversy bubbled over when word spread that the Colorado Republican sipped Michelob Ultra in a glass of ice during an interview. The partisan outrage spilled in a state awash in craft breweries, 428 at last count.

Sen. John Hickenlooper (D., Colo.), who founded a well-known Denver brewpub, tweeted about the beer-drinking apostasy. Within hours, the campaign of Mr. O’Dea’s Democratic opponent, Sen. Michael Bennet, began selling beer koozies proclaiming, “There’s No Ice In This Beer.”

From state fairs to pizzerias, candidates have a history of choking on the campaign trail.

Republican President Gerald Ford in 1976 tried to eat a tamale in Texas without removing the outer corn husk (akin to eating a banana with the peel). Mr. Ford lost the presidential election that year to Jimmy Carter, the former Democratic governor of Georgia.

Former President Barack Obama in his first bid for the White House was hit with accusations of elitism after he asked a crowd of Iowa farmers in 2007: “Anybody gone into a Whole Foods lately and seen what they charge for arugula?” At the time, there weren’t any Whole Foods markets in Iowa.

As of Tuesday, groceries or food have been mentioned in more than 100,000 campaign ad airings from congressional candidates and their allies on broadcast and cable TV this year, according to data from ad-tracker AdImpact. Grocery prices are outpacing overall inflation, up 13% over the past year.

Pennsylvania GOP Senate candidate Mehmet Oz made a video of a supermarket excursion intended to spotlight soaring grocery prices. The message got lost in the derision that followed.

“I’m at Wegners, my wife wants some vegetables for crudités,” he said, botching the grocery store’s name in an apparent mashup of Wegmans and Redner’s, two supermarket chains in the northeast.

“Here’s a broccoli,” Mr. Oz said in the video, piling up carrots, asparagus, packaged guacamole and salsa in his arms, calling out each of their prices.

“Guys, that’s $20 for crudités and this doesn’t include the tequila!” he said.

Instead of inflation, viewers seemed more curious about why he wasn’t using a basket—and why anyone would pair tequila with…asparagus.

“There are few things more out of touch than calling a ‘veggie tray’ some fancy French word that literally everyone has to look up on Google,” said Mr. Oz’s Democratic opponent, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.

In response to questions about the grocery video, Mr. Oz’s campaign cited a decision by Wawa convenience stores to close two Philadelphia locations. “Wawa and its hoagies are now leaving Philly due to the radical policies of John Fetterman,” campaign spokeswoman Brittany Yanick said in an email.

In the race for Ohio’s open Senate seat, Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan attacked his Republican opponent, J.D. Vance, for his time spent as an investor in Silicon Valley. “You went off to California, you were drinking wine and eating cheese,” Mr. Ryan said during a debate last month.

The Vance campaign noted that Mr. Ryan had previously released an ad in which he and his wife crack open a bottle of wine. “The Vances and Ryans both like drinking wine? Scandal!” a spokesman for Mr. Vance said.

In New Mexico, Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham faced Republican ads attacking her spending after public records showed her administration had bought tuna steaks, Wagyu beef and alcohol. A campaign ad for Ms. Lujan Grisham pointed out that the receipt for ground Wagyu beef was for $7.49.

Nothing stings worse than appearing out of step with local custom.

Colorado’s beer-on-ice GOP candidate, Mr. O’Dea, brushed aside the criticism. During a campaign appearance at a brewery with Sen. Joni Ernst, he tipped ice cubes into his beer as well as the glass of the Iowa Republican.

“I like my beer cold. Try that out,” Mr. O’Dea said.

Ms. Ernst took a sip.

“Joe, I love my beer cold,” she said.

Mr. O’Dea’s campaign said he first tried beer on ice out of state, while visiting a friend in Arizona decades ago. “Turns out he really enjoyed it, and the rest is history,” said his campaign spokesman, Kyle Kohli. He added that Mr. O’Dea was “more of a Coors guy,” a beer that originated in Colorado, “but he lives the Ultra life from time to time.”

Former New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, and former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, both got burned for eating pizza with a fork—“like a tourist,” the New York Daily News said, describing Mr. de Blasio’s “Forkgate” faux pas.

“It was so hot,” Mr. Kasich confessed to late-night TV host Seth Meyers. “I made a terrible mistake. I picked up a fork.”

Mr. de Blasio, an Italian-American, said his method was a nod to his heritage, raising questions about whether people use utensils to eat pizza in Italy.

Former Democratic Sen. John Kerry, a Boston blue blood, ordered a cheesesteak sandwich in Philadelphia with Swiss cheese during his 2004 presidential campaign. Philly cheesesteaks, any local resident will tell you, should be prepared with provolone, American cheese or Cheez Whiz.

David Wade, Mr. Kerry’s spokesman at the time, said the campaign staff hadn’t adequately prepared Mr. Kerry about proper cheesesteak protocol.

“Our briefing had more holes than Swiss cheese,” he said.

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