US Elections 2016

Would-be fast-food president's diet aimed at voter base

A McDonald's fast food restaurant location in Woodbridge, Virginia, US.
A McDonald's fast food restaurant location in Woodbridge, Virginia, US. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK • President Barack Obama is so disciplined that his wife has teased that he eats precisely seven lightly salted almonds each night.

Mr George W. Bush was an exercise buff, obsessed with staying trim by mountain biking and clearing brush at his ranch in Texas.

But Mr Donald Trump is taking a different approach: A junk food aficionado, he is hoping to become the nation's fast-food president.

At a CNN town hall-style meeting in February, he extolled the virtues of McDonald's. "The Big Macs are great. The Quarter Pounder. It's great stuff."

Mr Trump's presidential campaign is accused of being improvised, undisciplined, rushed and self-indulgent. And so is his diet.

In an era of gourmet dining and obsession with healthy ingredients, Mr Trump is a throwback to an earlier, more carefree time in American eating, when nobody bothered to ask whether the tomatoes were locally grown, and the First Lady didn't have a vegetable garden, complete with a bee hive, on the South Lawn of the White House.

But in Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts, Mr Trump has broadcast his culinary preferences to the nation - devouring a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken (while reading The Wall Street Journal), feasting on a McDonald's burger and fries (to celebrate clinching the Republican presidential nomination) and chowing down on a taco bowl (in an effort to woo Hispanic voters).

And he shuns tea, coffee and alcohol.

But his highbrow, lowbrow image - of the jet-setting mogul who takes buckets of fried chicken onto his private plane with the gold-plated seat-belt buckles - is carefully crafted.

Mr Trump's diet telegraphs to his blue-collar base that he is one of them.

"There's nothing more American and more of-the-people than fast food," said Mr Russ Schriefer, a Republican strategist and ad maker.

Or, as Ms Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser and pollster on the Trump campaign, put it: "It goes with his authenticity."

She said: "I don't think Hillary Clinton would be eating Popeye's biscuits and fried chicken."

Mr Trump has even suggested doing away with state dinners, in a fit of cost and time savings.

"We should be eating a hamburger on a conference table," he said.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2016, with the headline 'Would-be fast-food president's diet aimed at voter base'. Print Edition | Subscribe