Thanksgiving Dinner With the 2016 Presidential Candidates

Fiorina brought cranberry sauce and Carson brought copies of his books

Inviting strangers to Thanksgiving is an American tradition.
Inviting strangers to Thanksgiving is an American tradition.

With Thanksgiving on Thursday, Public Policy Polling released a poll asking Americans which of the 2016 presidential candidates they would most like to invite to Thanksgiving dinner. Twenty-four percent of Americans said they would invite former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with 18 percent saying they would invite retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and 17 percent wanting to invite Donald Trump.

PPP also asked who Americans thought would be the most likely to ruin Thanksgiving dinner. Forty-six percent said Mr. Trump would be the most likely, with 22 percent saying the same of Ms. Clinton, suggesting the poll may have had more to do with name recognition than actual knowledge of the candidates.

So what would Thanksgiving be like with each of the 17 remaining candidates? Well, I can imagine.


Luckily Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal called last week to say he wasn’t going to be able to make it. That means I don’t have to find another mismatched chair to put out, and it also means that, including me, there’s an even number of people. Thanks, Mr. Jindal.

Sens. Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, along with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were the first to arrive – not to help cook or clean or prepare in any way, but to watch football. Mr. Rubio won’t stop talking about how the Cowboys beat the Dolphins on Sunday. Mr. Cruz, of course, finds his anger amusing. Mr. Bush keeps bringing up his fantasy football lineup.

Mike Huckabee arrives with Rick Santorum and cornbread pudding because God forbid we forget he’s from the South. He scolds me for saying ‘God forbid.’

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina is the first to show up and actually help. She brought a homemade cranberry sauce—her personal recipe that includes red pepper flakes, single malt whiskey, raisins, mustard, oranges, onion and fresh cranberries. Of all the candidates to bring their own dish for the night, it was clear she put the most thought into hers.

The boys can be overheard yelling at the TV as she discusses Thanksgiving with her family.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is the first Democrat to arrive. We forgot he was invited. Actually, we’re not sure if we actually even sent him an invitation. He brought green bean casserole and stands in the corner stiffly.

George Pataki and Jim Gilmore arrive shortly after. They carpooled to save money. Next to arrive is Lindsey Graham, joking about how he had no one else to spend the holiday with. Those in earshot laugh awkwardly.

Mike Huckabee arrives with Rick Santorum and cornbread pudding because God forbid we forget he’s from the South. He scolds me for saying “God forbid.” The two of them had just been helping at a homeless shelter.

Mr. Carson brings gifts for everyone—personalized copies of his latest book. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders gets there at nearly the same time, having had to escape a crowd of fawning college students who chased him down the block for autographs.

Suddenly a limo procession appears at the street outside the house. The road has been blocked off and security officers flood the sidewalks, talking into earpieces. The officers sweep the house and interrogate everyone inside. “Trump’s here,” we think to ourselves.

Nope, Huma Abedin gets out of one of the limos and inspects the house. After a quick walkthrough, she returns to the limo. The tinted window rolls down a smidge and she whispers something into the vehicle. She then opens the door and Ms. Clinton gets out. Ms. Abedin walks with her up to the house but then leaves once Ms. Clinton is inside.

“Wow, I’m the only woman here,” Ms. Clinton says, though Ms. Fiorina and I are clearly visible in the dining room.

“Did you bring the stuffing?” I ask.

“Don’t worry about it, I’ll send for it later,” she replies.

Mr. Sanders, too, had promised to bring something but didn’t. Say what you will about O’Malley’s pathetic casserole, at least he delivered.

Finally, Mr. Trump shows up, with an entire catering team to set the table and provide all the food. He reminds us of his contribution throughout the night.

The actual dinner wasn’t half bad. The food was delicious and the political talk was kept to a minimum.

The main table in the dining room filled up quickly, so Mr. Christie, Mr. Huckabee, Mr. Pataki, Mr. Gilmore and Mr. Santorum had to set up at the kid’s table in the hall. We can hear them saying grace from the main table. We pretty much forget about them after that.

Mr. Carson led grace at the main table before cutting the turkey so precisely one would have thought it had been done by a machine.

Mr. Sanders was the only one to bring up politics while people were eating, since he is essentially a walking Vox talking points article. He was intent on making sure everyone at the table had the same amount of food, whether they wanted it or not. I don’t want yams, I told him. “Everybody gets the same!” he wailed, before complaining about how unnecessary it was to have so many choices at one meal.

He and Mr. Trump get into an immigration argument when Mr. Sanders brings everyone down by suggesting Thanksgiving is really a celebration of mass murder. Mr. Trump suggests we should have built a wall way back then.

Mr. Rubio and Mr. Cruz did argue throughout the dinner, but it was over football and who had the most “American dream” upbringing. Meanwhile, anytime someone passes something to Ms. Clinton, she reminds them that she’s running for president and a woman.

“Ms. Clinton, would you like some mashed potatoes?”

“You know, my daughter likes mashed potatoes. And did I mention I’m a grandmother?”

“Yes, Ms. Clinton, you did…”

Rand Paul, who hadn’t said anything for hours, tries to bring up media bias but gets shouted down quickly. He continues eating quietly as Ms. Fiorina interrupts whoever’s speaking in order to get a word in.

After dessert, those at the main table decide to say what they are thankful for. While everyone was thankful for their families, a few comments stuck out:

Mr. Trump: “I’m thankful for the wonderful opportunity this country has given me to succeed and become a billionaire.”

Ms. Clinton: “I’m thankful for all the hard-working women who have made this country great.”

Mr. Rubio: “I’m thankful for the hard work of my mother and father who wanted to make a better life for their children.”

Mr. Cruz: “That’s what I was going to say.”

Mr. Sanders: “I’m thankful for the—well, actually, we need to talk about the income inequality in this country, because there’s a lot of folks out there who don’t have much to be thankful for, and it’s because of Wall Street fat cats…”

“Shut up, Bernie!” We all say together.

Oh, holidays. Thanksgiving Dinner With the 2016 Presidential Candidates