As I mentioned in my last post, the
Besides the candidates, an army of journalists from all over the world record every step and misstep during this quadrennial courting dance.
Back in 1987, no incumbent was running so both parties had eight or nine candidates each declaring his or her intention to run. At the time, I was in the ice cream business and looked upon this overwhelming media presence and wondered how I could tap into it and use it to my commercial advantage.
It was then that I thought of The Great Midwestern Ice Cream Presidential Poll. Here is how it worked:
I assigned flavors to each candidate, giving that flavor a name that reflected a distinguishing characteristic of the candidate. For example, there was Bush’s Preppymint, Simon’s Bow Tie Brickle, Gephardt’s St. Louis Bluesberry, Biden’s Loquacious Peach, Gore’s Mint Julep Chip, etc. I then declared that we’d determine a candidate’s popularity by how much ice cream was sold in his (or her) name.
It was a cute idea and I thought I’d get some little mention in TIME magazine or something like that. What actually happened blew my mind.
The press went wild. The evolution of this story over the
next six months made the international wire services four times. I was
interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, New York Times Magazine, NBC Evening
News, and scores upon scores of others. I appeared on Japanese TV. A friend
said he saw my interview when he was vacationing in Italy.
A Dutch film crew visited my ice cream factory. I got a call from a radio station in
The punch line of my ice cream poll was the flavor for a candidate who was forced out of the race because of an extra-marital affair – Hart’s Donna Rice Cream
With all the media attention this poll was receiving, the candidates and their staffs started taking the poll seriously. Staffers would “stuff the ballot box” by buying lots of their candidate’s flavor. One staffer actually complained to a major newspaper that just because someone may not like their candidate’s flavor didn’t mean he didn’t like the candidate. Another campaign’s highly placed staff member called me and expressed her extreme disapproval with the name we gave to her candidate’s flavor – Robertson’s Born Again Chocolate. (It was Double Dutch chocolate). She said she wanted us to change it to Peppermint Patty. I said that that name simply wasn’t funny. Congresswoman Pat Schroeder loved her flavor – Run Pat Run Raisin. (When she was trying to decide whether to run or not, her supporters would chant Run Pat Run.) Dupont cringed when he heard the name of his flavor – Dupont’s Super Rich Fudge – but he said he would endorse my ice cream if I would endorse his candidacy. Both Governor Dukakis (Massachewy Chocolate) and Senator Dole (Top Banana) made personal campaign promises to me. Neither kept them even though I tried to collect from Dole on a number of occasions. When I shook hands with General Alexander Haig (I’m In Charge Chocolate), all humor was sucked from my body and I thought I would never laugh again. He was one serious dude.
The caucuses are held in the evening. On the actual day of the caucus, the candidates fill their schedules with as many appearances as possible where they try to squeeze out every last single vote and also to try to be the lead story in the evening news.
Governor Dukakis for the Democrats and Senator Dole for the Republicans won my poll. Each consented to receive their winning flavor on the day of the caucus. At the Dukakis presentation in the morning, there were 20 television cameras. The photo of me handing Dukakis his flavor made the front page of the Washington Post. Later that day, Dole’s presentation was recorded by 6 television cameras and a horde of print journalists.
That morning I was interviewed on the Today Show by Bryant Gumbel and Jane Pauley. On Good Morning America I was interviewed by Mark Russell, the political comedian.
The poll was such a success that we continued it after the
If you would like to read the story of all my ice cream exploits, it begins at this permalink – http://lazyway.blogs.com/lazy_way/2005/04/by_popular_dema.html and runs for ten posts.