Mickey Mouse, pony soldier and rock’n’roll: US campaign offbeats

A bizarre joke, a rocking campaign party and an unfortunate photo of President Donald Trump, the man Democrats hope to beat in November: here are some offbeat highlights from a week on the US campaign trail:

– Just joking? –

Joe Biden was having a bad week, his White House campaign bracing for a poor showing in New Hampshire’s primary after a dismal result in Iowa days earlier. And then it suddenly got worse.

In one of the more head-scratching moments of the Democratic race so far, the former vice president was caught on camera calling a young woman a “lying, dog-faced pony soldier.”

It was at a campaign event, and Biden had just asked if she had ever been to a caucus. When the woman nodded, he clapped back with the startling name.

Biden’s campaign tried to explain away the apparent gaffe — saying it was a joke drawn from a John Wayne movie, and one the veteran Democrat had used before.  

The phrase “dog-faced soldiers” is used in the 1949 John Wayne film “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,” while “pony soldier” appears in the Duke’s 1953 movie “Hondo.”  

Suffice to say the joke fell flat.

– Full Buttigieg –

Pete Buttigieg had a particularly busy Sunday: the former South Bend, Indiana mayor pulled off a “Full Ginsburg,” where he spoke on all five major morning talk shows.

The expression was coined in 1998 for William H. Ginsburg, the lawyer representing Monica Lewinsky. Ginsburg was the first to pull off the still rare tour de force when defending the woman at the heart of Bill Clinton’s impeachment process.

– Bernie rock –

Bernie Sanders may be 78 years old, but he showed he can party like the kids at a recent New Hampshire campaign event. 

On Monday evening, rock band The Strokes took the stage to play for a thousands-strong crowd, many of whom were a good half century younger than their leftist champion.

Both The Strokes and Sanders had good reason to party: the band seized the occasion to announce the release of a new album while the candidate, riding high in the polls, went on to win the state primary the next day.

– After Donald, Mickey?  –

“I think we could run Mickey Mouse against this president and have a shot.”

That was the theory put forward by Biden on Tuesday, when asked on a talk show if nominating his leftist rival Sanders would cost Democrats the election.

Problem: Biden’s clapback ultimately undercut an argument central to his own campaign — that he is the only Democrat one capable of beating Trump.

– #orangeface –

A photograph of Trump published last week by @photowhitehouse — a Twitter account that is not affiliated with the White House — quickly went viral for revealing a sharp contrast between the president’s orange-toned face and the pale band of skin along his hairline.

Trump was quick to label the image as “fake news” in a tweet, claiming it had been manipulated. 

Other pictures taken at the same time and place — including by AFP — also showed a marked tan line on the president’s face, although less of a bright orange coloration.

But that did not stop the internet from delighting in the photo to spin off countless memes around the hashtag #orangeface.