2012: The tastebud election

Jill Gregorie Contributor
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Every four years since 1984, Hanisch Bakery & Coffee Shop of Red Wing, Minnesota sells two sets of buttercream cookies — one decorated red and one blue — representing the Republican and Democrat candidate running for president that year. So far, every cookie that won the bake-off won the election.

Accurate? Yes. Scientific? Not so much.

Hanisch Bakery is one of several food merchants around the country that now pits presidential candidates against each other, using food and beverages to predict who will win the Oval Office.

Heath Hall, co-owner of D.C.-based Pork Barrel BBQ, began a “BBQ Straw Poll” this year in which competitors buy Mitt Romney or Barack Obama T-shirts and bumper stickers off the restaurant’s website to gauge who will win the 2012 election. Each item purchased receives one vote, and followers can track for weekly progress updates on Twitter.

Hall feels that “the BBQ voter” represents an accurate cross-section of America because the cooking style is universally embraced by nearly every demographic and socioeconomic group nationwide.

“It’s probably the truest food that relates to all kinds of voters. It doesn’t matter if you’re male, female, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, rich, poor, or where you live geographically — it really appeals to the entire melting pot. What America is is tied to what barbecue is,” Hall told The Daily Caller.

Even 7-Eleven joined in on the phenomenon, designating Sept. 28 as “CofFree Day,” and distributing large-sized coffee in red or blue cups, depending on which candidate will receive the customer’s vote. Traditional 7-Eleven cups were available for undecideds or those who wished to remain nonpartisan.

Oddly enough, in all three elections 7-Eleven has held with its coffee-driven “7-Election,” customers accurately predicted who would end up in the White House, according to the company. The competition continues after CofFree Day, and results are updated daily at 7-election.com.

More than 6 million cups, all representing votes, were purchased in each of the three prior competitions.

Hall said the reason so many voters participate in these polls is because the food and restaurant industries resonate so deeply with the American public.

“Most restaurant or small business owners have risked everything they have at one point, or are still risking everything they have, to make their business run, so it’s part of the economic debate that’s going on right now,” Hall said. “It’s about that passion that a lot of Americans have, that entrepreneurial spirit that they interject themselves into.”

Still, Bill Harnisch insists the informal polls are just a fun way to express political preferences.

“My favorite story is when two brothers came in, and one wanted a blue cookie, and the other wanted a red one. Their mother said, ‘This may be a free country, but it’s not a free household.’ So they both had to get a Romney cookie.”

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