THE BLOG
04/15/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

It's New Beer's Eve: How Do Clinton, McCain, Obama Relate to Beer?

Monday, April 7, is the 75th anniversary of the day that Prohibition was first breached in 1933 by allowing 3.2 percent beer. The 18th Amendment was not fully repealed till December, giving beer an eight-month head start.

Back then, the American beer companies had been suffering from more than a dozen years of Prohibition. It was the genius of the Busch family to dramatize the fact that "beer is back" 75 years ago by yoking together a team of Clydesdale horses to carry beer down Fifth Avenue to the Empire State building, where the horses and beer were met joyfully by the "wet" former New York Governor Al Smith.

In 2004, people surveyed about their preference as a beer-drinking partner picked George W. Bush over John Kerry by 57 percent to 43 percent. Now the National Beer Wholesalers Association's has put this question on its web site -- www.nbwa.org -- for the current presidential candidates. I can report that Barack Obama yesterday was in first place with 45 percent of all votes. McCain was second with 23 percent, Ron Paul was third and Hillary Clinton was fourth.

The problem with this survey, apart from the fact that the respondents are self-selected, is that Hillary Clinton doesn't drink much beer and the other two principal presidential candidates drink hardly any alcohol at all.

Hillary Clinton, according to a waitress named Gina quoted in the Washingtonian, "drinks Kir Royales, Mango Royales, anything with Champagne. Bill is a Grey Goose on the rocks drinker. I've waited on them many times." A Kir Royale is named after the former mayor of Dijon and combines five parts champagne with one part crème de cassis.

John McCain's campaign spokesman Jill Hazelbaker says the senator "very rarely, if ever, drinks alcohol." However, he owes much of his career to beer, specifically Anheuser-Busch, the nation's largest brewery, and its third-largest distributor, Hensley & Co., which gave McCain a PR job 30 years ago in Phoenix, Arizona. McCain married the boss's daughter, Cindy, whose net worth today is estimated at more than $100 million (by prenuptial agreement, almost all in her name, which proved helpful when McCain was investigated during the 1989 Keating Five scandal). McCain's first 1982 run for Congress would hardly have been possible without loans and gifts from the Hensleys, the Anheuser-Busch PAC and Hensley executives -- so much help that the Federal Election Commission required the McCain campaign to return some of the money.

Barack Obama, according to the Washingtonian's bar mole, doesn't drink. "I'd give Obama sparkling water," she says. Yet Obama has had a beer named for him twice. Senator beer in Kenya was so named when he first got elected to the U.S. Senate. Now drinkers of Senator beer are anticipating his promotion and have nicknamed the beer Obama. Ironically, University of Maryland prof Thomas Schaller has predicted Obama will do better in upscale "wine track" states (examples -- New Jersey and Connecticut) than in "beer track" manufacturing states (examples -- Ohio and Pennsylvania).

All of which tells us that none of the three leading presidential candidates is generally likely to "have a beer" with anyone. But maybe today will be an exception.