Last week, on the first day of early voting in North Carolina, more than 700 people waited in torrential rain to attend a 7 a.m. event for billionaire Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg. Among the attendees at Footnote Coffee in downtown Winston-Salem was 22-year-old Wake Forest undergrad Meredith Happy, who posted a Snapchat shortly after she walked into the event. The picture wasn’t of any campaign signage, or even the candidate, but of a kingly spread of food that included quiches, smoked salmon with capers and chopped eggs, a fruit platter, cookies, and assorted pastries. She captioned the photo “Daddy Bloomberg.”
红包扫雷源码免公众号“i’ve never seen food at a political event,” happy said. “and i’ve been to a lot of them.”
Judging by the all-you-can-eat feasts that have become a hallmark of Bloomberg events throughout the country, his unconventional presidential campaign — which has seen him enter the race just days before the deadline to appear on the ballot in many states, skip the first four states of the Democratic primary, and totally eschew outside fundraising — is taking at least one old adage seriously: that the way to a voter’s heart is through their stomach红包扫雷源码免公众号. Pete Buttigieg may hold fundraisers , but Bloomberg brings wine to the voters, serving it alongside Cuban sandwiches and kosher pigs in a blanket at a Miami rally in late January. Two weeks ago, in Philadelphia, more than 1,000 attendees feasted on hoagies, honeyed Brie, and cheesesteaks at Bloomberg’s expense.
even compared to other billionaires who have made self-funded runs for president — — bloomberg, who has a net worth of more than $61 billion, operates with a . by some estimates, he on advertising alone, including a super bowl commercial that cost $10 million. and while that not even the 12th richest person in the world can buy a presidential election, the early results speak for themselves: despite launching his campaign in late november and suffering from a barrage of attacks in recent weeks — regarding ; , which affected the daily lives of millions of citizens; and his — steadily rising poll numbers now put the plutocrat , allowing him to make his first appearance at a democratic presidential primary debate this wednesday in las vegas.
Wining and dining voters to win their favor has a long tradition in American politics. George Washington early in his career with “144 gallons of rum, punch, hard cider, and beer his election agent handed out — roughly half a gallon for every vote he received,” en route to victory for a seat in the Virginia House of Burgesses, according to Daniel Okrent in . In 1876, the Republican Party paraded two oxen through the streets of New York before to an audience of 50,000 attendees.
“there was a longstanding bribery tradition where candidates would offer whiskey in exchange for the ‘correct’ vote,” says justin levitt, a professor at loyola marymount university and an expert on election law. prior to the standardization of the ballot, americans voted with colored slips of paper, which could be identified from afar by someone handing out free hooch.
In 1948, Congress passed a law , virtually ending the practice of candidates handing out free food and drinks to sway voters. The law applies only to inducements to vote a particular way, however; doling out goods freely, without the promise of a particular vote, is perfectly legal — as made clear by Tom Steyer’s taco truck at an early-voting site in Las Vegas. “If you get the food regardless of whether you take it and walk down the street and vote, it’s not a quid pro quo,” Levitt says. “Shady is in the eye of the beholder.”
红包扫雷源码免公众号last week, andre rice from phoenix was in the middle of his work day at an online education company when he got a message from an unknown number. it was from a member of team bloomberg who called himself jason, inviting rice to a latin-themed “¡ganamos! con mike” event with the promise of “food and fun.” when rice asked for additional details about the food, jason replied, “not sure. i think it will be possibly south american.”
community gatherings like the one rice was invited to are fairly low in the hierarchy of campaign events — the candidate isn’t there, and the turnout is typically limited to a couple dozen locals networking over shared interest in a topic — but even in this kind of setting, the bloomberg campaign uses food as part of the draw. (it is ultimately a limited one for some voters: rice declined the invitation.)
at a recent “brazilians for bloomberg” event at beco in williamsburg, brooklyn, there were plates of empanadas, steak sandwiches, and pao de queijo (cheesy bread), while pitchers of caipirinhas were continually refreshed, in both passionfruit and regular flavors. tonight, at a “vietnamese-american campaign allies” event at the hit lower east side eatery an choi, happy-hour specials on saigon beer, taro fries, spring rolls, and vietnamese wings will be covered by the campaign. “i’m getting a firsthand experience in how the bloomberg machine works,” said an choi owner tuan bui, who added, “i’m voting for bernie sanders.”
the luxe provisions offered by bloomberg mark a significant departure from the stale bagels and pizza that are the staples of most campaigns, even for bigger events like office openings. “at most of our organizing events, volunteers actually bring the food, instead of us supplying it. there tends to be a lot of pizza and homemade sweets,” says olivia bercow, nevada press director for pete buttigieg’s campaign. “at rallies, we don’t typically have food.”
at a recent office opening in bayside, queens, the bloomberg campaign ordered food from erawan thai cuisine, the french workshop, maria’s mediterranean, martha’s country bakery, bayside milk farm, mr. pollo, vipizza, and papazzio. “queens is the most diverse neighborhood in the country,” says jennifer blatus, new york communications director for the bloomberg campaign. “we’re able to cater to each individual group.”
on the trail, the extravagance of the free food has become a part of bloomberg campaign lore. embedded journalists often post pictures of the spreads, and his philadelphia rally — the one that offered beer, hoagies, cheesesteaks, and honeyed brie — is referenced in .
红包扫雷源码免公众号“people are more likely to engage with the message when they have a full stomach,” says helen monroe, a winston-salem resident who was at the 7 a.m. early-voting event in north carolina. monroe went for seconds from the smoked salmon platter and lingered after the candidate stepped off stage. later in the day in raleigh, the campaign rented out the train station and set up a diy buffet of barbecue sliders, along with platters of pimento cheese, vegetables, and hummus. a crate of bread was tipped over, evoking visions of a cornucopia overflowing with abundance. according to one caterer, there were 120 pounds each of pulled pork and chicken to feed the anticipated lunchtime crowd.
Though the campaign ultimately wouldn’t comment on how it chooses its food vendors, there is a clear pattern — cheesesteaks in Philly, Cuban sandwiches in Miami, barbecue in North Carolina — meant to signal to the voters that Mike Bloomberg is relatable, or at least knows what they eat, in much the same way candidates with lesser budgets appear on camera eating corn dogs in Iowa or stopping into Dunkin Donuts in New Hampshire.
红包扫雷源码免公众号and for some voters, that seems to be enough. “in north carolina, you have eastern and western barbecue sauce, and at this event you have both. he’s a uniter!” said millie ravenel, a raleigh resident who said that she was undecided before the event. she took another bite of her pulled pork sandwich. “i cemented my commitment to him today.”
is a photojournalist based in New York City.