C Is For Cookie (Or Maybe C-Minus)

While pundits digest the news of a Kerry-Edwards ticket (and regurgitate both campaigns’ talking points on the matter), Campaign Desk has been chewing over different combos, which we found distinctly indigestible: chocolate chunks and sour cherries; pumpkin puree and raisins.

And we have a conclusion for you: The November 2 election will be neck-and-neck and will likely hinge upon those annoying hold-outs, the undecideds, according to an in-house cookie taste test conducted earlier today.

As you may have read in a major (or minor) newspaper near you, Family Circle magazine has a perfect record of predicting the outcomes of the past three presidential elections. The magazine asks readers to sample cookie recipes from the incumbent first lady and from the woman hoping to take over the East Wing, and to vote their taste buds.

Prepared to bear any sacrifice, pay any price in the search for the ultimate election predictor, Campaign Desk baked and tasted both of this year’s recipes — Laura Bush’s Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies and Teresa Heinz Kerry’s Pumpkin Spice Cookies — and was wholly unimpressed. Here at News Central, we had three halfhearted votes for Bush’s batch, two tepid votes for Heinz Kerry’s offering, and two undecideds (who found both recipes equally mediocre).

Sample comments: “The oatmeal one is more cookie-like.” “[Bush’s recipe] tries to cram every single flavor into one thing, while [Heinz Kerry’s] pumpkin seems content with what it is.” And, “This may be why they have White House chefs.”

But if Campaign Desk’s internal poll was indecisive, other reports have been less so. On June 25, ABC’s “Good Morning America” invited celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse to bake both cookies and got on-air feedback from the crowd. “If cookies decide,” GMA’s Charles Gibson declared, “I hate to tell you, Bush wins.” Marian Burros, a New York Times food writer, apparently liked neither recipe, but tipped her hand with her comment to Times reporter John Tierney on June 6 that “there are a lot more chocoholics in the world than pumpkinholics.” The Washington Post’s “Reliable Source,” Richard Leiby, got former Family Circle contributing editor, the snarky Nancy Lloyd, to weigh in on June 22 with this: “Pumpkin spice cookies — we might as well call the election now … I mean, why didn’t [Teresa Heinz Kerry] make a ketchup cake? So then if John Kerry doesn’t end up with the job, at least it helps her bottom line.”

And, during a June 17 CNNfn segment on the bake-off, Family Circle’s current editor-in-chief, Susan Ungaro, said: “… I don’t want to act like a psychologist about cookies but I will for a moment. You know, Laura Bush’s are sweet chocolate [sic] are very popular, you know the chocolate chip cookie is almost as all-American as apple pie today. And Teresa Heinz Kerry is, you know, a very interesting new character in this political race and, you know, pumpkin spice, spice, more spicy personality …”

Excuse us while we go toss our cookies. All of them.

Liz Cox Barrett

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.