At the first presidential debate, Brian Williams tosses me the classic are-you-a-populist-or-not? softball, which my aides somehow didn’t prepare me for: “What’s the price of a gallon of milk?” I hedge by asking, “Regular or soy?” and quickly provide the correct amount for unsweetened soy at Whole Foods ($1.99 per quart), but the scornful looks in the crowd confirm that I’ve already been cast as an effete, unelectable Northeastern liberal. John Edwards nails the right answer and pours himself a tall, victorious glass from his pitcher of 2 percent.
New York, N.Y.
Before I tuck in at my own $1,000-a-plate fundraising dinner, I ask one of the servers, “What’s in the chicken casserole?” White wine, Worcestershire sauce, and garlic, he thinks. I press until he finds the head caterer, who confirms there’s both sour cream and undiluted cream-of-mushroom soup. Crisis averted—until I realize I’m two seats away from a Wall Street Journal reporter who’s been waiting on tenterhooks for me to slip up. The analysis in the next morning’s paper: I’m likely to be a nitpicky, Socialist-style micromanager who will bloat the federal government with bureaucrats.
Everything’s going great as I work the crowd after a rousing stump speech. Then a mother holds out her infant for me to kiss—and I see the telltale signs on its face of recent nursing. I hesitate before air-kissing the kid on his ear. Result? I’m labeled “wooden” and “lacking a fluid ounce of human compassion.”
Lake Geneva, Wis.
Photo op at a local diner famed for its gargantuan milkshakes, but I’ve come prepared. Just before the friendly waitress slides me a classic chocolate malted with extra whipped cream, I surreptitiously reach into my pocket for two stashed Lactaid pills. Hours later, close-up shots spread on the Internet with this caption: “Possible Prez a Pill Popper?”
My Senate proposal to set up a trade embargo with all the Scandinavian countries until the next presidential election, is met with accusations that I’m pandering to the dairy lobbyists. Then I’m called a Clintonian sellout when, in an attempt to rebound, I propose “ending government cheese as we know it.”
Los Angeles, Calif.
Guess who’s the only major candidate not to appear in a “Got Milk?” commercial, after his milk mustache prompts a massive outbreak of hives and Jaggeresque swollen lips? I’m forced to drop out of the race due to what my polling people call “crippling vulnerability in the heartland and with soccer moms concerned about osteoporosis”; apparently, I have traction only with Asian Americans and Ashkenazi Jews. I comfort myself that night with an extra-large serving of raspberry sorbet and vegan crème brûlée. It sucks.