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A Single Tamale May Have Changed a Presidential Election- And American History

Photo Credit: Scott Gordon Bleicher

Photo Credit: Scott Gordon Bleicher

When you’re on the campaign trail, everything you do is scrutinized, even what you eat and how you eat it. It’s never been more true than in this election. The whole world watched as John Kasich aggressively ate his way through New York and  chided Donald Trump when he used a Cinco de Mayo taco bowl to show how much he loves Hispanic people. But Kasich’s eating couldn’t have possibly cost him the election, right? If that were possible, Ted Cruz would have gotten the nomination- he crushed the pizza primary.

Dan Pashman explored the topic of eating on the campaign trail on this week’s episode of his podcast The Sporkful, and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee isn’t sure that food can’t play a huge role in politics. He believes it changed the 1976 election. Gerald Ford was running against Jimmy Carter, and on a stop in Texas, Ford had to eat a tamale. He took a bite, but he didn’t take the shuck off. Huckabee recalls, “every newscast in Texas all weekend long, all they did was show Gerald Ford not knowing how to eat a tamale. To this day, I am convinced that it was that gaffe with the tamale that cost him the state of Texas. Carter won Texas, and Carter won the presidency, and it may have been a tamale that did it.”

He didn’t have to eat a tamale though, did he? Wrong. Candidates have staff that plans every detail of every public meal that happens on the campaign trail. Where are you going? Who works there? What are you supposed to order? All of it matters. How you talk about food matters, too. When Mitt Romney went to Mississippi, he accidentally called cheese grits “cheesy grits.” Of course, this makes it look like he’s not down to earth, something he was fighting anyway. One of Pashman’s guests, Josh King, a former white house aide said “they generally are damaging when they play into preconceived notions people already have about the candidate.”

The right thing to eat changes wherever you are. Sometimes, you’re expected to eat the local specialty. Other times, you have to eat a little bit of everything, which actually sounds fun. The one food everyone agrees you should never eat? A corn dog. We understand why.

Interestingly, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both don’t eat much in front of the press. Maybe they’re onto something.

Listen to the full episode here:

[image via screen grab, YouTube]

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