How a Plate of Tamales May Have Crushed Gerald Ford's 1976 Presidential Campaign

Food on the campaign trail is a minefield for political candidates, who have to figure out how to seem relatable enough to try out the local chow while avoiding an embarrassing photo. Today, most politicians do their best not to “pull a Gerald Ford.” Ford was running for a second term in 1976 against Jimmy Carter after attaining America’s highest office in the wake of Richard Nixon’s resignation. At a campaign stop in San Antonio to visit the Alamo, Ford was offered a plate of tamales. This is where things took a dark turn. He picked one up and, without removing the corn husk, bit right into it. Thus, the Great Tamale Incident of 1976 was born. The Mayor of San Antonio at the time, Lila Cockrell, said she thought Ford “just picked up the plate, because if someone had given him the plate, the tamales would not have had the shucks.” Ford, meanwhile, nearly choked. Mike Huckabee, who was living in Texas at the time, said the tamale blunder became a media focal point and may have hurt Ford dearly. Carter won Texas and Carter won the presidency, and it may have been a tamale that did it.