From the Gigglin’ Goat to the Squat N’Gobble GOP Candidates Make Quirky Campaign Stops

Jan 15, 2012 4:05pm

While many will argue over whether the GOP candidates’ statements are kooky or calculated, some of the locations they chose to say them in are unarguably quirky.

Forget chain restaurants and high-end hotel ballrooms: When the Republican presidential hopefuls are on the stump, it’s in down-home diners like Daddy Pop’s Tumble Inn Diner in Claremont, N.H., or family-owned restaurants like Lizard’s Thicket in Blythewood, S.C.

“We have a good representation of the people here in South Carolina,” said Lizard’s Thicket spokeswoman, Sara Krisnow, “from top executives to blue collar workers and families. So that’s probably why they chose to come here.”

Rick Perry seems to have a particular knack for choosing campaign locations with out-of-the-ordinary names. Besides Lizard’s Thicket, where he spoke Saturday, the Texas governor has stumped at both The Fainting Goat and the Giggling Goat, as well as Fat Jack’s Grillin and Chillin, Doughy Joey’s Peetza Joynt and the Squat N’ Gobble.

Michele Hamilton, a server at Squat N’ Gobble who saw Perry speak at the Bluffton, S.C., eatery on Friday, said the venue choice showed that Perry would look out for lower-class Americans, not just the wealthy.

“This is like a little down-home country store and I feel like he was for the lower class people of the world and the other ones [presidential candidates] are trying to reach the wealthy people,” Hamilton said.

But while their names may by unusual, many of these local hangouts are no strangers to political campaigns.

Lizard’s Thicket, which has played host to half of the GOP presidential candidates this cycle, was a go-to spot for Hillary Clinton during her 2008 White House bid. A book about the 2008 presidential race, “Game Change,” even had a chapter named after the South Carolina staple, “Fear and Loathing in the Lizard’s Thicket.”

Krisnow said people thought her grandfather was “crazy” when, 30 years ago, he named his restaurant Lizard’s Thicket, “but it’s worked for us.”

And with specials like “fried chicken livers” and “Southern-style pot roast,” Lizard’s Thicket may have been a taste of home for Gingrich and Perry, both of whom are from the South.

But while many of these mom-and-pop places open their doors (or countertops, in Jon Huntsman’s case) to political stump speeches, one restaurant owner was less than thrilled about campaign visits to his small-town New Hampshire eatery.

Colby’s Breakfast & Lunch in Portsmouth, N.H., banned politicians from its 10-table restaurant, hanging a sign on the door that read, “No Politicians, No Exceptions,” Seacoast Online reported.

“I find it incredibly rude,” owner Jeremy Colby told Seacoast Online. “I don’t appreciate Joe Blow coming in here and whoring around the dining room for votes.”

Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and little-known GOP presidential candidate Buddy Roemer all visited the diner prior to its newly instated politician ban.

But that anti-candidate sentiment seems to be the exception rather than the norm.

Brooke Hovick, the manager of The Giggling Goat, said she welcomes having presidential candidates stop by her local restaurant.

“It was great publicity for us to get our name out there,” Hovick said. “We have a lot to offer and it’s a really unique place.”

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