Boy, Michael Bennet isn’t messing around.
On Aug. 6, the U.S. senator from Colorado mounted an all-out assault on The Post and Courier’s presidential campaign food contest. The scorecard for the Race to Eat 16 Iconic SC Foods at the time sported a single check mark, indicating that Tom Steyer ate a slaw dog.
But then Bennet boldly announced he planned to fill out his portion of the grid by devoting a day to consuming the listed dishes.
“On a mission to complete @postandcourier’s iconic food challenge,” he wrote in a tweet which was liked by more than 250 people.
Bennet started at Bojangles’ with a “much-needed Cajun Filet Biscuit.” He followed up with lunch at JK’s House of Ribs in Manning, where he collected a whopping four check marks for mustard-sauced barbecue, hash, sweet tea and peach cobbler. After a detour to Cooper’s Country Store for country ham (an extracurricular choice), he dined on South Carolina shrimp and pulled over for boiled peanuts, giving him a grand total of seven check marks.
Unfortunately, Bennet hasn’t fared nearly as well in the polls. Under rules set by the Democratic National Committee, he failed to qualify for the next debate. (Not surprisingly, Bennet is on the record as not liking the rules.)
He’s staying in the race, though, which could set the stage for the greatest food-based political comeback in American history. It’s easy to imagine Bennet inadvertently gaining a deep appreciation for South Carolina foods in the course of harvesting check marks, and then calling upon that knowledge to connect with prospective voters. The movie version might go something like this:
DISSOLVE TO: JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL AUDITORIUM
[There are more folding metal chairs than audience members in the room for a debate featuring the remaining Democratic candidates. One is droning on about tax rates; pan to an audience member yawning.]
Sen. Bennet, would you agree with your fellow senator’s assessment of the situation?
Sir, his understanding of this issue is about as slippery as a boiled peanut left too long in the pot. Am I right?
[The crowd murmurs. The yawning voter sits up straighter.]
Here’s what I always say: Heading into the future without a real plan is like trying to make a deviled egg without Duke’s mayonnaise!
[Audience members jump to their feet. Cut to a montage of Bennet rallies, each bigger than the last. Supporters are waving signs with Bennet’s picture and slogans such as “You can’t top this slaw dog fan!” and “Sweeter than my tea!” Smash cut to an elegant-looking office.]
Sen. Bennet, just one more question: Are you thinking pimento cheese or chicken bog for the Inaugural Luncheon?
Despite Bennet’s August sprint to the front of the pack, none of the other candidates felt compelled to keep up. Not one other candidate picked up a check mark in the past month, although a few came tantalizingly close.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar told her Twitter followers that she ate a blueberry biscuit from Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit, and announced at The Post and Courier’s Pints & Politics event that she’d eaten fried chicken, ribs and banana pudding while in South Carolina. None of those items are on the list.
Neither are the green beans, collards and corn bread which Rep. Tim Ryan put away at Grandma’s Kitchen in Greenville on Aug. 25. Ryan three days later tweeted a picture of his Popeyes’ chicken sandwich, writing, “breaking: found my running mate.” (His follow-up tweet read, “update: ate my running mate.”)
Responses to Ryan’s Popeyes’ tweets weren’t kind: People said his memes were old and sneered that he would never be as popular as a sandwich.
Maybe he should have sought out grits instead.