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Wine Pairings for the Second Republican Presidential Debate and the Fall of Democracy



Anyone who watched the first Republican Presidential Debate is undoubtedly gearing up for the follow-up spectacle on September 27. Questions abound: Will Trump ever show up for one of these debates? Will Pence’s head burst into tiny shards from the dual pressures of both trashing and supporting his former boss? What’s the best wine to pair with popcorn and the fall of democracy? As the 2024 election nears, we could all surely use a drink, so why stop at just one wine when we can pair a bottle with each of the GOP presidential hopefuls?


DONALD J. TRUMP


While he won’t actually be on stage, the former POTUS will definitely be the 215-pound elephant in the room. As you watch the candidates attempt to distance themselves from all 91 of Trump’s felony charges while simultaneously sucking up to him—let’s face it, he is getting the nomination—pour yourself a Jumbo-sized tumbler of orange wine. No, I don’t mean one of the delicious, cleanly made versions, like the Pinot Gris from Two Shepherds. You want one of those funky-ass "natural" numbers the kids swoon for: a filthy, dirty wine with so many flaws even ETS can’t identify them all. Take a hearty gulp every time a candidate utters any variation of the phrase: “It’s time for new Republican leadership.”


NIKKI HALEY


In the previous debate, the former South Carolina governor came off sounding not-insane and even rational on the topics of abortion, government spending, Putin, and Trump’s chances of winning the election. That, of course, means she has as much chance of getting the nomination as a Riesling has of topping Wine Spectator’s Top 100. As Haley pours gasoline all over her political career, calling out Trump’s $8 trillion contribution to the national debt and daring to suggest that a woman who gets an abortion doesn’t deserve the death penalty, pop the cork on a bottle of any Riesling. Take a generous gulp every time Haley gets booed for saying something normal.


MIKE PENCE


You almost had to appreciate Pence in the last debate when he said of Trump, “He asked me to put him over the Constitution and I chose the Constitution.” But then, when asked if he’d support his old boss—the guy who would have gladly kicked over the scaffold chair at Pence’s January 6th hanging—even if convicted of crimes, the former vice-POTUS sheepishly raised his hand. I haven’t seen a contortion that impressive since the last Cirque de Soleil tour. That kind of performance calls for a wine of mystery—something that appears to be one thing in the glass, but then turns out to be something entirely different. And not in a good way. Ever tried Chocolate Wine? It looks like a regular, decent red wine, but then? Surprise! A viscous mouthful of Hershey’s. Take a big ol’ sip of whatever-the-hell-that-is each time Pence mentions god or “my faith.”


RON DESANTIS


Remember in the movie “Coco” how people’s dead ancestors would become transparent and eventually disappear from the afterworld when the last person in the land of the living had forgotten them? You can practically read a newspaper through the Florida governor these days as his Trump Lite campaign fades and flounders, and the last Republican voter forgets he’s even in the running. It’s fitting revenge for Coco’s producer, Disney-owned Pixar, which suffered the governor’s wrath for opposing the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. For a candidate in DeSantis’ condition, you’ll want a bitter and ultimately forgettable wine. Enter grocery store Pinot Grigio. Take a massive swig every time DeSantis says “woke.”


TIM SCOTT


Whenever the South Carolina senator appears on TV I'm reminded of the classic “Chapelle's Show” sketch about Clayton Bigsby, the blind white supremacist who doesn’t realize he’s Black. How else to explain Scott's claim that “America is not a racist country”? And yet, the man has also said that he gets followed around in stores—and not because the security guard wants to know what cologne he’s wearing. For Scott’s appearance on the debate stage, have a friend pour an undisclosed wine into one of those “colorblind” tasting glasses that hide the drink’s hue, then drink whenever Scott says racism is no longer a thing. Good news, Black people: Everything’s fine now!


CHRIS CHRISTIE


Isn't it fun to watch Christie and Trump trade insults like a couple of mean girls at 7th grade cheer camp? Trump calls Christie a “fat pig” and he retorts with a slam about Trump’s love of overcooked burgers. Christie calls Trump a “crybaby,” “a hot mess,” “a 13-year-old,” and “a liar and a coward,” and Trump dismisses Christie as a “loser.” But no matter how cutting (and accurate) the former New Jersey governor’s one-liners are at the next debate, they’re not going to win him any points with the “new” GOP, which seems to have an aversion to both humor and facts. In tribute to Christie’s description of the classified documents caper at Mar-a-Lago as “Abbott and Costello Meets the Corleones,” pop the cork on a selection from Franzese Wines, run by a former mob boss from the Colombo crime family. Take a hit each time Christie says Trump's conduct is beneath the office of the Presidency.


VIVEK RAMASWAMY


Sure, I could attempt to write a clever description of the overly confident millennial biotech investor, but why bother when ChatGPT can do it for me? With a nod to Chris Christie’s zinger at the previous debate, here’s what the ‘bot came up with:


The self-proclaimed unicorn of the political world is a man with views so unique that even his pet goldfish has trouble keeping up! If his political ideology were a flavor, it would be spicy mango jalapeño surprise because you never quite know what you're going to get… One moment he's championing free-market capitalism like a Wall Street wolf in a sheep's clothing store, and the next, he's advocating for universal healthcare while wearing a "Medicare for All" cape and a stethoscope.


Not bad, ChatGPT, but can you pair a wine with him?


A good all-around choice that pairs well with many different dishes and is often enjoyed by a wide range of wine enthusiasts is a nice Pinot Noir.


Don’t quit your day job, Chat-bro! The ideal wine is not a nice Pinot Noir. It is, in fact, the most comically offensive wine I've ever tasted. No, not Spicy Mango Jalapeno Surprise, though some winery in the Southwest is almost definitely making that. I’m talking about a tomato wine I once sampled, made by a dentist in Tennessee. If you can’t find tomato wine—and let’s hope you can’t—snag a bottle of Barefoot Pineapple Fruitscato and take a slug each time Ramaswamy promises to disband the FBI, CDC, DOE, ATF or IRS.

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