A brief history of dogs as campaign assets

A brief history of dogs as campaign assetsAugust 5, 2020

During a campaign, any offhand comment can be used as a fundraising tool — even asides about an innocent rescue dog. At least that’s the story in Iowa, where Democratic candidate Theresa Greenfield just proved that she could raise a significant amount of cash from a comment that incumbent Republican Sen. Joni Ernst probably thought was insignificant.

While on a fundraising call in late July, Ernst said to donors, “I’m talking about supports necessary for child care so that moms and dads can get back to work, [Greenfield’s] been hiding in her basement taking selfies with her dog Ringo.”

“Her dog Ringo” has since raised $132,000 for the Greenfield campaign, per the Des Moines Register, a move that is as comical as it is shrewd. Greenfield even encouraged donors and voters on Twitter to “stand with Ringo,” a nod to the random attack on man’s best friend — who is now, too, campaign’s best friend. Ernst should have known that treating dogs poorly would backfire, given the infamous story of the 1983 road trip Mitt Romney took with his family, in which the now-senator for Utah placed Seamus the Irish setter in a carrier on the roof of their car — a detail that still follows him decades later.

Greenfield isn’t the only candidate whose four-legged surrogate has helped with voter outreach. Bailey Warren — a golden retriever and, according to one Twitter fan account, “consumer watchdog and campaign furrogate” — proved himself integral to Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) presidential campaign. Bailey stumped for Warren in Iowa and other early states when his owner had to stay in Washington for President Trump’s impeachment trial.

Bailey wasn’t alone on the 2020 campaign trail, however. Pete Buttigieg’s one-eyed puggle, Buddy, and Truman, a beagle, also made their presence known. BuzzFeed even made a quiz to help you decide which of the former South Bend mayor’s rescue pups best fit your personality.

As for Greenfield, it looks like supporters are posting photos of their own pets on Twitter in support of Ringo. “Ringo is spinning for joy after seeing all your pet pictures!” Greenfield tweeted.

Ringo, Bailey, and the rest are part of a rich history of political pups. When the Obama family was still living in the White House, Bo and Sunny Obama gained quite the following, and also proved to be natural public servants, appearing in this video about emergency preparedness. The Bush family also brought dogs to Washington, D.C., and the line of canine companionship can be traced all the way back to Theodore Roosevelt in the early 1900s. There is, however, much less information about candidates campaigning with their cats — and we’ll withhold speculation as to why.

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