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Warner Bros.
The Meal: Ham and Cheese Breakfast Sandwich with Gravy at Nook (4757 University Way NE)

The Movie: The Campaign at Pacific Place (600


In The Campaign, Southern Politics Are Nasty. Have a Biscuit.

Thumbnail image for smallcampaignstockphoto.jpg
Warner Bros.
The Meal: Ham and Cheese Breakfast Sandwich with Gravy at Nook (4757 University Way NE)

The Movie: The Campaign at Pacific Place (600 Pine St.)

The Screenplate: I'm probably not the ideal audience member for The Campaign, the new movie starring sometime Seattle tourists Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis. When I lived in North Carolina, the state in which the slapstick electioneering satire is set, I managed political campaigns. So much like an ichthyologist trapped in a Jaws screening room, I over-analyzed every nuance - or at least the few nuances I could find in a film that climaxes with Ferrell punching a baby.

Incredibly - and perhaps inadvertently - the movie does a pretty good job of capturing what it means to run for office in rural North Carolina. I never worked for a candidate who tried to salvage his campaign by screwing his opponent's wife, but candidates whose life stories have been intertwined since childhood; rumors of sexual malfeasance; church attendance records and corporate money are standard elements of campaigns in North Carolina, and most everywhere else. Director Jay Roach may have honed his gross-out chops in Meet the Fockers, but he was clearly paying attention when he directed Game Change and The Recount.

In The Campaign, Will Ferrell plays a long-serving congressman whose re-election prospects are derailed when he misdials his mistress' number and leaves a bawdy message for a family that's too busy praying to pick up the phone. Sensing an opening, the Motch brothers (Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow serve as the hand-rubbing stand-ins for the wealthy Koch brothers) recruit Marty Huggins, the town's tourism director, to run for the seat.

Bonus: Incumbents often joke about paying the filing fee for opponents as apparently inept as Huggins. When I ran a campaign for State Senator Joe Sam Queen, we faced Keith Presnell in the general election. Have a look:

As a swishy, civic-minded, small-town Southerner, Galifianakis isn't half as likeable (or believable) as Jack Black in Bernie. But he's a shade nearer the real deal than Ferrell, who glides through the film on George W. Bushian chuckles and boasts. His slick confidence forces the Motches to underwrite a total overhaul of Huggins; his family; his home and his dogs, replacing his suspiciously exotic pugs with a pair of retrievers. Once Huggins discovers he's passionate about bringing jobs back to North Carolina (big verisimilitude points there), the race becomes so heated that CNN and MSNBC are soon covering the candidates' low-blows, including a gunshot to the shin.

Bonus: Guns are standard props in rural campaigns, but Senator Queen wasn't much for hunting. His schtick revolved around Appalachian square dancing. The grandson of a legendary caller who worked a dance in Franklin Delano Roosevelt's White House, Joe Sam ended every rally by "joining hands in one big circle." Have a look (the fun really gets going around 3:35):

The film's moderately entertaining, but it's stuck trying to make the serious point that money's undermining the political process. The Campaign ends up repudiating democracy in order to wring a happy ending from the story.

Of course, the happiest moments on the Southern campaign trail revolve around food. There's suspiciously little of it in The Campaign, especially considering that office-seekers in North Carolina eat barbecue at least once or twice a day.

But there's plenty of electioneering that occurs before noon, which is why biscuits have become an important campaign food too. In The Campaign, Huggins is introduced at a breakfast.

There are many, many breakfasts for North Carolina politicians. And whether they're staged in cramped county party headquarters or a fancy hotel dining room, they usually include warm, comforting biscuits. (If biscuits weren't on the menu, Senator Queen sometimes contributed them: It wasn't unusual for me to get home from work at 11 p.m. and put a tray of Pillsbury Grands in the oven for a Democratic Women's event the following morning.)

Biscuits are much like politics. No matter what folks tell you, you're likely to have the same preferences as your parents. If your mother baked a huge, firm biscuit, that's the biscuit you want. Biscuit opinions - like political opinions - are usually voiced very strongly.

My opinion of the biscuit at Nook -- which has quickly established itself as the city's leading biscuit purveyor -- is favorable. The dough's perhaps a tad sweet, but the gravy's salty, so the flavors even out on the plate. What's best about the biscuits, though, is their texture: They have a clearly defined golden crust and warm interior chew. Piled with an egg , cheddar cheese and ham, it's a sandwich that could power the most exhausted politico through a day of campaigning, real or imagined.

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