Iconic South Carolina foods

The current crop of Democratic presidential hopefuls must be starving.

Apparently, politicians angling for the nation’s top job are hungrier for power than hash, since they barely got out of the starting gate for The Post and Courier’s Race to Eat 16 Iconic SC Foods. Since the challenge was published on May 29, only one candidate has earned a check mark. This isn’t often said in political circles but Tom Steyer is in the lead.

2020 Candidate Food Tracker

Each month The Post and Courier will update this chart as candidate visit South Carolina and eat the specified dishes.

Steyer apparently drank sweet tea on a July 12 visit to Hannibal’s Kitchen, based on a photo that shows his hand resting alongside a half-full plastic cup. Other photos suggest he may have eaten fried okra and cornbread at the same meal, but neither of those items is on the challenge list.

(Also in the category of minor campaign tragedies: Bill de Blasio on May 18 visited Duke’s Bar-B-Que in Orangeburg. In an online PIX11 News clip titled “De Blasio tries to connect with South Carolina voters,” the New York City mayor can clearly be seen eating hash and drinking sweet tea. But this race didn’t start until the end of May, so de Blasio’s meal was a wash.)

According to The Post and Courier’s handy 2020 Presidential Candidate Tracker, the candidates have scheduled more than 300 events in South Carolina since Memorial Day. Yet when they appear at restaurants, there never seems to be food in the vicinity.

Here’s a picture of Steyer at Aunny’s Country Kitchen in Georgetown with people sitting around empty tables. Here’s Marianne Williamson at a restaurant where people apparently feast on notebooks and pens, based on how the tables are set.

The summertime gimme on the list was fried fish, since candidates were guaranteed to flock to Jim Clyburn’s World Famous Fish Fry.

In the end, 21 candidates showed up. How many fish dinners did they eat? Judging by photographic evidence, none. Members of The Post and Courier’s crack political team say they didn’t spot a single candidate tuck into fish and bread. Of course, a good reporter knows there’s more to every story than an eyewitness account.

“They may have done it backstage, out of sight,” political reporter Jamie Lovegrove theorizes.

Good for optics, perhaps, but not so good for the check mark chase.

Despite the field’s horrendous performance, at least one candidate has endorsed the contest. On July 17, Michael Bennet’s verified Twitter account shared the story announcing the challenge, adding, “I legitimately believe this challenge should be a criteria for entering the next DNC debate.”

Does Bennet have something up his sleeve? Steyer’s one-item lead may seem insurmountable now, but Bennet’s big moment in the first Democratic debate involved moderator Savannah Guthrie reading a quote from him: “It’s possible to write policy proposals that have no basis in reality. You might as well call them candy.”

Sounds like Bennet has food on the mind. But does he have iconic South Carolina foods in his future? We’ll take another look at the chart next month.

In the meantime, politicians, you may have heard this one before: Do better!

Sanders, Warren fight back at Democratic debate against moderate rivals

Reach Hanna Raskin at 843-937-5560 and follow her on Twitter @hannaraskin.

Food editor and chief critic

Eating all of the chicken livers just as fast as I can.

We're improving out commenting experience.

We’ve temporarily removed comments from articles while we work on a new and better commenting experience. In the meantime, subscribers are encouraged to join the conversation at our Post and Courier Subscribers group on Facebook.