Michael Bloomberg may not upend the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, but his campaign could bring chaos to The Post and Courier’s S.C. Iconic Food Challenge.
When the contest was announced in May, the rules stipulated that the first Democratic presidential hopeful to eat all 16 items on the list would be declared victor. But the overview didn’t make clear if candidates were required to eat the traditional foods along the campaign trail in South Carolina, or if they could pick up dishes such as fried fish and deviled eggs in other Southern states.
Bloomberg, who’s skipping the early primary states, appears poised to do just that.
Pundits have largely dismissed Bloomberg’s appetite. In fact, a Democratic pollster and strategist in early November told Business Insider that Bloomberg’s lack of affinity for mustard-sauced barbecue (the first item on the challenge roster) could hurt his chances with voters.
“He's really going to sit down with 65-year-old retired union worker in South Carolina and have BBQ out of a paper plate?" asked Celinda Lake, who might not know that no other state in the country has a smaller percentage of workers represented by unions.
It seems she’s also wrong about the barbecue. Bloomberg has historically been vilified by fried food devotees for his crusades against salt and soda: “According to Bloomberg, we shouldn’t consume a single morsel that hasn’t first been nutritionally analyzed, weighed, inspected, prepared, approved, served and previously digested by Uncle Sugar himself,” former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee wrote in God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy, released in advance of his presidential run.
But days after filing election paperwork in Alabama, signaling his late-entry bid for the nomination, Bloomberg registered in Huckabee’s home state. To celebrate, The New York Daily News reported, he “chowed down on barbecue with Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott.”
Perhaps Bloomberg’s facility with Southern food shouldn’t be surprising. Bill de Blasio, another former New York City mayor, knocked out half of the S.C. Iconic Food Challenge before ending his presidential campaign.
“You have to eat the food!” he told The Post and Courier. “You want to understand the people; what they love and why they care about it. Also, why would you want to miss this?”
Per usual, his former rivals continue to miss it. There is no evidence that any of the remaining candidates made any headway on the challenge in November, although Marianne Williamson did attend an LGBTQ Friendsgiving in North Charleston. The event was undocumented, though, so it’s impossible to know what she ate.
At this point, Michael Bennet is still in the lead, with seven checkmarks to his name. He somehow still hasn’t conquered grits, which are a centerpiece of the menu at D’Egg Diner, a Norfolk, Va., restaurant where Bloomberg recently worked the room.
Take it away, Mike.