How To Pander: A Guide For The Candidates Robert Siegel and Melissa Block explore how the political candidates can pander correctly in Missouri, Illinois, Louisiana and Maryland.

How To Pander: A Guide For The Candidates

How To Pander: A Guide For The Candidates

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Robert Siegel and Melissa Block explore how the political candidates can pander correctly in Missouri, Illinois, Louisiana and Maryland.


When politicians venture out into the country, they often dabble in that trickiest of political maneuvers: pandering. They sample local food, pose in front of familiar backdrops and borrow colloquialisms.


It's an old, rich - if tawdry - tradition, and it is alive and well on the 2012 presidential campaign trail.

NEWT GINGRICH: ...we've all had a terrific time here. Jimmy has already gotten out of Ray Scott a commitment to go bass fishing. And I think...


MITT ROMNEY: The governor said I had to say it right: Morning, y'all.


ROMNEY: Good to be with you. I got it sort of right this morning with a biscuit and some cheesy grits. I'll tell you.

SIEGEL: You heard Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney there; Romney, who quickly learned in Mississippi last week that the delicacy is referred to as cheese grits, not cheesy grits.

BLOCK: Yes, pandering can backfire. And, of course, it's done by all sides. Here's then-Senator Barack Obama in 2007.


SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: Michele actually has her grandfather with some South Carolina roots; came from Georgetown. So, I just wanted you to know that we got a South Carolina connection.

SIEGEL: Hopscotching all across the country can challenge the most practiced pandering politician.

BLOCK: So with the Republican contest coming up in a variety of states, we have some guidance for the candidates on how to pander. First of all, there's this tip about Missouri, where multiday caucuses are under way.

MICHELE SKALICKY: The ones who say "Missouri" are convinced that the ones who say "Missoura" are wrong. And it goes both ways. In fact, saying "Missoura" around someone who strongly believes it's "Missouri" could lose a candidate a vote.

BLOCK: That's Michele Skalicky, a lifelong resident of Missouri. She's the MORNING EDITION host at KSMU in Springfield.

SIEGEL: Well, now moving on to Illinois, for candidates headed downstate before next Tuesday's primary, if you arrive in Peoria ready to pander by trying local cuisine, here are some hints that I got from Phil Luciano, who's a columnist for the Peoria Journal-Star.

PHIL LUCIANO: In the spirit of pandering, probably one of the things they'd want to gobble up is a pork tenderloin. You deep fry it, throw it in. They're as big as a - usually about the size of a hubcap.

SIEGEL: What if the candidate were to remember that old - I guess it's an old vaudeville saying, the question of: Will it play in Peoria? Will it work in the middle of the country - a cool thing to say in Peoria?

LUCIANO: Well, I think there is that segment of Peoria that's kind of like, oh yippy, yahoo, that guy knows Peoria - he said our saying. And young people, I don't think they care. They're looking out for lameness. If they're going to trot out the same old, tired phrases - man, that's not going to help too much.


SIEGEL: And if the candidate - or candidates were to go someplace for the perfect pandering photo opportunity, where they'd be seen in someplace that just says a-ha, that guy really gets what we're all about.

LUCIANO: You go to a place like Agatucci's, the pizza place that's been here since before Prohibition. That's not looked at as lame. You got your tiger sauce; you got your big pies. And that's a place everybody knows around here.

SIEGEL: Your tiger sauce?

LUCIANO: Tiger sauce;, it's made with real tigers.

BLOCK: Well, from Illinois we head south to a state with some good pandering targets, Louisiana. I asked humorist James Edmunds, of New Iberia, what to eat in southern Louisiana.

JAMES EDMUNDS: Oh, crawfish. This is the height and the heart of crawfish season now. And you want to be seen at a crawfish boil, where there's hundreds of pounds of red, glistening, just-boiled, steaming crawfish.

BLOCK: I happen to have been to some crawfish boils in my day, and it's a messy business.

EDMUNDS: Yeah, you have to literally roll your sleeves up. And one thing a politician would want to watch out for, though, at a crawfish boil, is to make sure you don't call them crayfish. Always say crawfish. The word crayfish really sticks in our craw.


BLOCK: Well, and if they were coming to that part of Louisiana, what would some other perils be, do you think, for politicians? Stuff that folks would just shake their heads and say, ugh, totally blew it.

EDMUNDS: Well, I think the phrase laissez les bon temps rouler - laissez les bon temps rouler is our phrase. It means, you know, let the good times roll. And it's easy to mess that up and sort of sound foolish. You know, lesses less bon temps roller - or something like that. And so you want to make sure that if you utter such phrases, you get reasonably close.

SIEGEL: And still further south, to Puerto Rico. Rick Santorum has already visited, and Romney is headed there on Friday - before Sunday's primary.

Of course, you can guess how candidates might pander in Puerto Rico.

BILL SANTIAGO: Yo estoy con los Puerto Ricanos. Si se puede.

BLOCK: That's comedian Bill Santiago. He's a New Yorker of Puerto Rican extraction.

SIEGEL: If you're pandering successfully...


SIEGEL: ...should you say "some of my Puerrrto Rrrican friends," or "some of my Porto(ph) Rican friends"?

SANTIAGO: Some of my Poriqua(ph) friends.


SIEGEL: From Boregaina.

SANTIAGO: That's even more insider - my Poriqua friends.


SIEGEL: Would that - somehow, that wouldn't sound all that authentic coming out of, say, Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum.

SANTIAGO: No, but look; hey, people aren't fooled by the fact they're showing up there. You know, they know why they're there, so just go for it. Go for broke.


SIEGEL: I see. I see. And is there anything that would be especially embarrassing or comical to Puerto Rican ears, that just wouldn't naturally occur to a former Pennsylvania senator or Massachusetts governor?

SANTIAGO: Here's a faux pas that candidates always make in Puerto Rico. They think it's a great photo op to be seen drinking Presidente Beer. You know? It's a great visual - Presidente, I'm going to be the president. They don't realize it's Dominican beer. That's really off message in Puerto Rico.

SIEGEL: A complete guide to pandering has yet to be written, but looking on into April, there will be cheese to consume in Wisconsin, crabcakes in Maryland.

BLOCK: And, if any Republican candidates bother to campaign in the District of Columbia - well, they can just pose in front of the White House and dream of living inside it.

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