Jim Madigan

Jim Madigan

Now that Mitt Romney has officially gathered enough delegates to be the Republican nominee – I’ve got some unsolicited advice for him and President Obama as they prepare for the fall campaign.  Experts and consultants on the economy and energy and foreign policy are all well and good – but let me tell you what every candidate really needs.

A Food Advisor!

Let me tell you why.

Remember last spring when Mitt Romney was slugging it out in the primaries with Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul? One morning in Mississippi, Mitt got up and told an audience how much he’d enjoyed his breakfast of cheesy grits. Dead silence and no votes gained. They don’t call them cheesy grits down in Dixie. They’re “grits” or “grits with cheese”. If you’re going to pander and try to act like a “Good Ole Boy” from the neighborhood – you’ve got to get the name of a local food favorite exactly right.  A well-informed Food Advisor wouldn’t have let that happen. Mitt finished third in both southern state primaries the next week and the primary fight slogged on. Did the “Cheesy Grits” incident play a role? You tell me.

There are more even more egregious examples of candidates making fools of themselves’ while just trying to be regular guys.

1972 – Democratic Presidential candidate George McGovern was campaigning in a Jewish neighborhood in New York City. It was lunch time and McGovern approached a corner hot dog vendor. He ordered a hot dog – so far, so good. A local politico squiring him around whispered quietly as he could, “kosher, kosher”. Now, there’s not a big Jewish community in McGovern’s home state of South Dakota. Not understanding that he was being told to order a “Kosher Hot Dog” showing respect and knowledge of Jewish dietary laws, McGovern thought it must be some local delicacy – so he said “and let me have a kosher, too”. Then he compounded that goof by asking for milk. No dairy and meat together under the dietary laws. Call it one more insight into why McGovern carried only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia against Richard Nixon that November.

1976 – President Jerry Ford campaigning in Texas was handed an authentic,  Mexican-style tamale wrapped in a corn husk. Michigan boy that he was, Ford didn’t know any better and took a big, healthy bite of the tamale without “unwrapping” it. The President of the United States nearly choked to death. Again, a Food Advisor could have avoided that bit of embarrassment and maybe helped bring a little more of the Latino vote into the Republican column. In the end, Ford lost to Jimmy Carter. Was “ Tamale-gate” the reason. Probably not – but it didn’t help.

It’s a different scenario – but there’s also President George H.W. Bush’s famous “I do not like broccoli” remark – angering broccoli growers and giving kids everywhere one more excuse for not eating their vegetables. Not good. The kids don’t vote – but parents and broccoli growers do.

A Food Advisor could have headed that one off. Bush lost his 1992 re-election bid to Bill Clinton

My final advice to the candidates – think very carefully every time you open your mouth – especially when you’re about to put some food into it.

Most voters don’t pay a lot of attention to big speeches and policy proposals on critical issues – but they never forget when you do something that makes you look stupid!