What I Learned From Checking Where the 2012 GOP Presidential Campaigns Eat

The 2012ers’ campaign finance forms reveal that what we suspected was true – Team Paul is spending wisely, Team Bachmann burned money like it was a sacrifice to some pagan demigod, Team Obama isn’t getting Wall Street money as once it did. I’ll focus on something seemingly trivial to explain what we know. Where are the campaigns eating? Sadly, the full disbursements aren’t out for everyone, but we have some data to start us off.

Michele Bachmann: These disbursements for food are few but massive. We see two bills – $239.75 and $208.13 – for different McDonalds restaurants in Missouri. We see $567.11 for Bonzanza restaurant in Iowa, and $665.90 for the Machine Shed BBQ joint in Ames. Closer to D.C., there’s a $160.83 bill for Landini Brothers and $266.34 for Jackson 20. What I learned: Bachmann, who has plenty of experience feeding throngs of foster children, pulls out the checkbook for massive feed bag events for voters.

Mitt Romney: We see dozens of receipts in the Romney archives, and an unofficial competition to find the most ordinary cuisine. There are tiny bills for Dunkin Donutses, and 7-11s, and fast food joints. There’s $29.76 for a Cheesecake Fatory in Atlanta, of all places, and $61.21 for Bar Louie in Ohio, of all places. In Nashua, NH: $31.63 at a Cracker Barrel. In Salt Lake City: $25.86 at Dick Clark’s American Banstand Grill. Au Bon Pain at Logan Aiport is a common spot for quick eats, but for only $22.29 in expenses. The big, fancy meals aren’t even that big or fancy: $97.05 at Davios Northern Italian Steakhouse in Boston, $183.75 at Centro in Manchester. What I learned: “Business legends” keep fastidious records, and you save a lot of money if you skip wine.

Ron Paul: The libertarian candidate’s team doesn’t expense very much. There’s a $145.91 bill at Mango Mike’s in Alexandria, and $53.42 at Guapo’s near the same location. Both are shooting distance from Paul’s campaign office, which itself near the nerve center for Paul’s youth campaign. What I learned: He’s traveling more than he did in 2008, but Paul’s bid is the same kind of let’s-put-on-a-show libertarian cause that it was. And it’s cheap! (One New York Times article referred to “two tiers” of presidential campaigns, lumping Romney, Cain, and Perry together, but excluding Paul, who has $3.7 million on hand and no debt.)