Kasich’s New York Pizza Pitfall

In the world of politics, candidates need to align themselves with voters. For New York voters, pizza protocol matters.

John Kasich fell into a classic campaign faux-paux. While in the city earlier this week, he was photographed digging into his pizza with fork and knife. Before his meal (and “candid” photo session) ended, he realized his error and finished up by hand. Kasich might have recovered from this mistake, but neglected to fold the slice over as a true New Yorker would. Within a few hours local New Yorkers had spread the photos across social media.

While you won’t find pizza listed on any candidate’s policy page, it speaks for character likability.  By the next morning on ABC’s “Good Morning America” the GOP candidate defended his decision to use cutlery by saying:

Look, look, the pizza came scalding hot, OK?”

To New Yorkers though, it’s more than a question of “why in the world would you eat pizza with a fork?” Partaking in local customs is important to a politician’s career. It demonstrates their ability to connect with the people.

In Pennsylvania, politicians eat philly cheese steaks. In Iowa, they go to the state fair. Though a common practice to many, some politicians just don’t get it right.  

Kasich is not the first politician to fall under scrutiny by New York locals for his preferred method of pizza consumption. While attempting to align themselves with voters, Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, and Bill De Blasio have all faced criticism for their failure to properly conform. Though Trump is a New York native, the inherent classism in eating pizza with a fork is not lost on the average New Yorker. Eating pizza bare handed is a sign of community and solidarity. It’s part of New York City culture, it’s “what you do.”

Pizza is not a deciding factor for most voters. Still, personal likability is a large factor in campaign success. New York polls show that Trump is currently leading with 56% of the vote, followed by Cruz with 20%, and Kasich with 19%.  It might appear trivial, but eating pizza “incorrectly” is a visible slice down the proverbial Big Apple. When you add photographic evidence and social media to the mix, and it becomes a losing battle.

Kasich has run a considerably tame campaign compared to the GOP competition. But with New York primaries approaching, his pizza mistake might break the state election for him.

Featured image via Flickr by Gage Skidmore