Applebee's and green tea redux: Reuters' Decker said Biden's "French cuffs" could cause problems for him "connect[ing] with voters"

››› ››› MORGAN WEILAND

On MSNBC Live, while assessing a speech on the economy by Sen. Joe Biden, Jon Decker said that Biden does not "help[] his case when he's making the argument on economic issues wearing French cuffs and dressed to the nines. I think that he's really got to connect with these voters." Contrary to the notion that wearing French cuffs may interfere with Biden's ability to "connect with these voters," French cuff shirts can be found for $37.50 on the website of J.C. Penney, a national department-store chain that many voters can presumably "connect" with.

On the September 15 edition of MSNBC Live, while assessing Sen. Joe Biden's speech on the economy, Reuters Washington correspondent Jon Decker said that Biden does not "help[] his case when he's making the argument on economic issues wearing French cuffs and dressed to the nines. I think that he's really got to connect with these voters." MSNBC anchor Chris Jansing agreed, asserting: "Yeah, it's about the message, but also about the perception. I guess ... I was a little surprised too that he didn't have that coat off and roll up his sleeves." Contrary to the notion that wearing French cuffs may interfere with Biden's ability to "connect with these voters," French cuff shirts can be found for $37.50 on the website of J.C. Penney, a national department-store chain that many voters can presumably "connect" with.

As Media Matters for America has documented, Decker also questioned Sen. Barack Obama's ability to connect with voters when he stated, in reference to Obama's bowling score during a March 29 campaign stop at Pleasant Valley Lanes in Altoona, Pennsylvania: "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."

Further, Chris Matthews said of Obama on May 13 edition of Hardball: "I think, being an African-American, it's all the more important to get in there and show who you are, introduce yourself as a person, not as an identity group, but as a human being, and connect with people. I think that's still going to be his challenge." Matthews then stated: "Playing pool, not a bad start, but it's not what most people play. People with money play pool these days." Matthews added: "The guys who have pool rooms in their house in the basement. You know what those tables cost?"

On the April 10 edition of Hardball, after reporting that Obama "campaigned today in northern Indiana, shaking hands and chatting with people at a diner near South Bend," MSNBC correspondent David Shuster stated 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 later interviewed Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), an Obama supporter, 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?"

On June 3, New York Times columnist David Brooks said on MSNBC Live that "Obama's problem is he doesn't seem like the kind of guy who could go into an Applebee's salad bar, and people think he fits in naturally there." Media Matters contacted the consumer relations department at Applebee's, which confirmed that Applebee's restaurants do not have salad bars.

The "French cuffs" comment also recalled a luncheon speech reportedly given by CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley, in which, according to an article in the November 16, 2004, edition of The Palm Beach Post, Crowley suggested that Sen. John Kerry's request at a Dubuque, Iowa, Holiday Inn for green tea -- which, as Media Matters noted, could be bought at the local Kmart -- exemplified what Crowley characterized as the "very large disconnect between the Washington politicians and most of America and how they live." Crowley reportedly added that in the 2004 presidential race, President Bush "was able to bridge that gap, and Kerry was not."

From the 11 a.m. ET hour of the September 15 edition of MSNBC Live:

CHRIS JANSING (anchor): So we've got both of the vice-presidential candidates out there on the stump, and you can hear Joseph Biden trying to tie the McCain-Palin ticket to the Bush administration -- President Bush's approval rating in our latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll at 34 percent. That should favor the ticket -- the ticket Biden is on with Barack Obama. In Michigan, they've lost 400,000 manufacturing jobs since 2000 when President Bush took office. They have the highest unemployment rate in the nation. Jennifer Skalka, editor of Hotline On Call, joins me along with Jon Decker, Washington correspondent for Reuters Television. I guess, Jon, what struck me listening now to Joe Biden and also listening to Sarah Palin before that -- couldn't be much more different in styles?

DECKER: It was pretty interesting. I think what's clear out of both of their messages today is that we've now returned to the economy once again as the number-one issue that presidential and vice-presidential candidates are talking about. And who could blame them with all of the crisis that is going on Wall Street today, with Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, AIG? I think that -- that, obviously, is the focus of Wall Street, but for the people that are listening in Michigan for Joe Biden in Colorado, for Sarah Palin, they're focused on the pocketbook issues, and we heard both of them speak about that this morning.

JANSING: Jennifer, any surprise in what you heard this morning? I mean, a lot of this is out of their standard stump speeches, although they did bring in the financial crisis today on Wall Street.

SKALKA: They did, certainly. Look, I think Sarah Palin is -- is obviously a new voice in all of this, and I think she stands out there as, you know, an earnest, populist messenger, somebody who has run a small business, who comes from a small business-oriented family, the father-in-law with the hardware store, and -- and I think that resonates with voters who see her as going through these same trials and tribulations with them. I think it makes it harder for Obama and Biden to cast McCain and Palin as more of the same.

JANSING: She's very folksy, Jon, calling her husband the First Dude and, you know, as Jennifer just said, talking about her family's experiences as small business owners, saying, you know, "I understand what it's like out there."

DECKER: You heard the reaction from those folks in Golden, Colorado. They really are energized by her, and it's the same type of reaction that she has received many places since she gave that convention speech a few Wednesdays ago. She's making that connection, she's energizing the Republican Party, and there are also some independents that are looking at the McCain-Palin ticket. I might add, just in terms of perception -- and Jennifer talked about it -- she has this folksy way of talking. For Joe Biden, I -- you know, not that he's not folksy, but I don't think it helps his case when he's making the argument on economic issues wearing French cuffs and dressed to the nines. I think that he's really got to connect with these voters, and his background certainly is a connection. He comes from a blue-collar family from Scranton, Pennsylvania, and I'm sure we'll hear a lot about his background in the weeks ahead leading up to November the 4th.

JANSING: Yeah, it's about the message, but also about the perception. I guess --

DECKER: It is.

JANSING: -- I'm -- I was a little surprised too that he didn't have that coat off and roll up his sleeves. We shall see how this progresses. We've got to cut it short with both of you. I'm sorry, Jon and Jennifer, because we spent so much time listening to those campaign stops, but thanks for being with us.

DECKER: Thanks, Chris.

SKALKA: Sure.

Network/Outlet
MSNBC, CNN
Person
Chris Matthews, Chris Jansing, Candy Crowley, David Shuster, Jon Decker
Show/Publication
Hardball, MSNBC Live
Stories/Interests
Joe Biden, Barack Obama, 2008 Elections, 2004 Elections
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.