What's the sandwich talking about? In case you somehow missed the scandal last week, on election day in Wisconsin Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan
Ron Paul handed out free sandwiches at a Cousins Subs in Waukesha. Video footage of the event has the Republican presidential candidate telling the crowd, "bring your friends to the polling place. Get out and vote. And if you want another sandwich, there are more back there."
Local Democrats weren't amused. The research director of the Wisconsin Democrat party filed a complaint with the state Government Accountability Board arguing that the Romney campaign had violated state election law restrictions which prevent candidates from handing out things "of value," as in greater than a dollar, as a means of inducing someone to either vote or stay home from the polls. The board said it discouraged the practice, saying that "we believe people should vote because they care about the issues and the process, not because they might get free food or free beer. We give the same advice to Democrats as to Republicans." But the Romney campaign blew off the incident, dismissing the Democratic complaint "a laughable stunt."
It was the Romney camp's reaction, says Chaudhary, that really galled him. "We don't think this is changing the outcome of the election," he told me this week. "But it is a callous disregard for the small things. And when they are pointed out, for them to be like, 'Who cares? It's just a small thing. It didn't matter.' Well, you know what? This stuff matters to us, whether it's needless voter ID restrictions or handing out sandwiches. All these little election laws, they're there for a reason."
And, as is perhaps naturally when it comes to an Obama campaign veteran, Chaudhary sees in sandwich-gate a sign that the Romney campaign isn't all that it's cracked up to be. "We hear a lot about how this campaign is so amazingly professionally run," he said. "And they do [generally] do a good job. But, for instance, Governor Romney always seems to be confused at his press avails on whether he should be taking questions or not. I don't think it's his fault. It's actually his staff's fault. But it just sort of adds up to not caring about the way things work on the small level, on the local level, about how you're talking to people when you're talking to people."
"And when you're talking to them and violating the law," he said, "that's important."
But is the Obama campaign any different? Does not a free sandwich or two lurk in its closets? That campaign has an entirely different orientation, argued Chaudhary. "When you see things that are slightly controversial, like 'Dinner with Barack,' about whether or not that's a contest and whether or not that's okay with election law, you see that the campaign has been very responsive in making sure that it conforms with not only the letter of the law in all the different states but the spirit of the law as well. In some ways, that's been, I think, maybe a learning process for them as well. But it's one they embraced as a learning process rather than rejecting it as 'Who cares about this kind of thing?'"