On MSNBC, Reuters' Jon Decker raised the issue of Sen. Barack Obama's bowling performance and stated: "[T]his cuts to 'is this person real? Do they connect with me as a voter?' You know, for someone who's in a bowling league in northeast central Pennsylvania ... they can't identify with someone getting a 37 over seven frames." Decker's comments follow those of MSNBC figures, particularly Chris Matthews, who have purported to identify actions or characteristics of Obama that they claim suggest he is not a "regular" person and is out of touch with average Americans.
While discussing the 2008 presidential campaign on the April 14 edition of MSNBC Live, Reuters Washington correspondent Jon Decker raised the issue of Sen. Barack Obama's bowling performance during a March 29 campaign stop at Pleasant Valley Lanes in Altoona, Pennsylvania, and stated: "You know, this cuts to 'is this person real? Do they connect with me as a voter?' You know, for someone who's in a bowling league in northeast central Pennsylvania, in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, they can't identify with someone getting a 37 over seven frames."
Decker's comments follow those of MSNBC figures, particularly Chris Matthews, who have purported to identify actions or characteristics of Obama that they claim suggest he is not a "regular" person and is out of touch with average Americans. During the April 1 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews referred to Obama's bowling performance and asked, "[C]an Obama woo more regular voters -- you know, the ones who actually do know how to bowl?" He later asked Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO): "Let me ask you about how he -- how's he connect with regular people? Does he? Or does he only appeal to people who come from the African-American community and from the people who have college or advanced degrees?" On the previous day's edition of Hardball, Matthews had said of Obama: "[T]his gets very ethnic, but the fact that he's good at basketball doesn't surprise anybody, but the fact that he's that terrible at bowling does make you wonder."
Similarly, on the April 8 edition of Hardball, after playing a clip of Sen. Hillary Clinton bowling on the April 7 edition of the syndicated Ellen DeGeneres Show, Matthews asserted: "Well, it looks like bowlers won't have a champion in the race at all. I'm actually surprised by the fact that neither Barack or Hillary have bowled much in their lives. Maybe that tells you something about the Democratic Party." During the March 31 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough described Obama's bowling performance as "dainty," and said to co-host Willie Geist, "You know Willie, the thing is, Americans want their president, if it's a man, to be a real man." Scarborough added, "You get 150, you're a man, or a good woman," to which Geist replied, "Out of my president, I want a 150, at least."
On the April 10 edition of Hardball, Matthews, along with MSNBC correspondent David Shuster, discussed in detail Obama's choice of beverage during a campaign stop that day at a diner in Indiana. Shuster said to Matthews: "Well, here's the other thing that we saw on the tape, Chris, is that, when Obama went in, he was offered coffee, and he said, 'I'll have orange juice.' " Matthews interjected, "No," to which Shuster responded: "He did." Shuster continued: "And it's just one of those sort of weird things. You know, when the owner of the diner says, 'Here, have some coffee,' you say, 'Yes, thank you,' and, 'Oh, can I also please have some orange juice, in addition to this?' You don't just say, 'No, I'll take orange juice,' and then turn away and start shaking hands." Matthews added, "You don't ask for a substitute on the menu," and then said: "David, what a regular guy. You could do this. ... I mean, go to the diners." In the next segment of the show, Matthews began his interview with Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), an Obama supporter, by asking: "Isn't that interesting, Senator Casey, that Barack Obama, your candidate, can walk before 15,000 people with complete calm and assurance, but he seems a little out of place in A) a bowling alley and B) a diner? What is the problem with your guy?"
During MSNBC's March 4 coverage of that day's presidential primaries and caucuses, Matthews stated: "[N]either one of these candidates, Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, are perfectly customized for Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania prefers a beefier sort to either of these people, a more rustic, tougher sort than either of them." As Media Matters has previously noted, Matthews has frequently discussed "beef[iness]" in the context of presidential politics.
From the 2 p.m. ET hour of the April 14 edition of MSNBC Live:
CONTESSA BREWER (anchor): It's interesting, though, because you always have this question that erupts around election time: Who would you rather have a beer with? And so, it's not just what the candidates are saying to appeal to folks -- they want to be seen as the guy or the gal next door -- but they also have to do it. So, we've seen these candidates now in Pennsylvania -- here's Hillary Clinton doing shots in a bar. And then we have video of Barack Obama tossing back a Yuengling, which, anybody who's been to Philadelphia knows they're very proud of their local beer out there. How important is the video? I mean, if -- do these pictures really speak a thousand words, Jon?
DECKER: They do. And let's not forget Barack Obama bowling. You know, this cuts to "is this person real? Do they connect with me as a voter?" You know, for someone who's in a bowling league in northeast central Pennsylvania, in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, they can't identify with someone getting a 37 over seven frames.
BREWER: Oh, and there's her chaser mug full of -- her beer stein full. And you gotta be careful, because not too many of those and the 3 a.m. call starts to seem -- well, I'll just leave that one alone, I guess. [Washington Post editorial writer] Jonathan [Capeheart], Jon, thank you guys.