Presidential candidates hosting expensive in-person events is a tradition as old as American politics. These usually take the form of expensive dinners or meet-and-greet breakfasts in key campaign locations or big donors’ backyards. And, theoretically, the more you give to a campaign, the more access to the candidate you’ll have.
But a few 2020 Democrats are taking the personal campaigning paradigm a step further, offering especially intimate experiences to a few lucky supporters.
Pizza with Pete Buttigieg
Buttigieg’s contest offers to fly out three winners (and guests) to eat dinner with Mayor Pete in South Bend, Ind. The dinner is reportedly taking place at Barnaby’s, “Mayor Pete’s favorite pizza place in South Bend.” Barnaby’s only has three and a half stars on Yelp, and this one-star review shows they serve…well, exactly what you’d expect an Indiana pizza to look like. The night isn’t about the food, of course—it’s about spending one-on-one time with the most affable presidential candidate in the race. But hosting “Pizza for Pete” at a place that cuts its round pies into square pieces is just egregious photo op pandering. Points to Buttigieg for alliteration, I guess.
Beer (or whatever) with Elizabeth Warren
Warren went viral for drinking beer on Instagram live back in January. This contest is clearly piggybacking on that video, albeit with the more inclusive caveat that the contest winners can drink “whatever” they please. Warren’s contest offers two nights of accommodations to Buttigieg’s one and is worth almost double in value ($3,000 to Buttigieg’s $1,500). Being this outwardly hospitable is extremely on-brand for Warren. But she faces the same problem Buttigieg does—that someone having a beer (or whatever) with her is nothing more than a prime opportunity for a photo op. Whoever wins this contest will likely get more out of a conversation with Warren than with any other candidate, no matter what they choose to discuss. But with the clear connection to her viral moment, the prize feels ornamental.
Intimate Reception with Marianne Williamson
Unfortunately this already took place last night in Rye, N.Y., so any hopeful intimate receptioners in the mid-Atlantic already missed out. It’s a more typical campaign event where big money donors have a chance for a bit of facetime with the actual candidate. But even though an RSVP requires a minimum $250 donation, there’s almost no question it’s the most bang for your buck. “Intimate reception” can mean anything, and Williamson herself makes this unpredictable. It’s likely an evening of close conversation about her (quite compelling) messaging about combating the dark forces in politics with a positive, love-filled movement. But it’s just as likely to be a seance, poetry reading or all-out swingers party. There’s no way to know, and that’s the beauty of it. Keep an eye on Williamson’s website for future intimate receptions.