14 of the strangest moments of the 2020 presidential campaign so far

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Chuck Hagel Forum in Global Leadership, on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Omaha, in Omaha, Neb., Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. Associated Press/Nati Harnik
  • Nearly two dozen candidates are vying for the Democratic nomination and each is making the case they are the best candidate to face off against President Donald Trump next year.
  • But the ever-changing terrain of the campaign proves they are not immune to strange gaffes or awkward moments.
  • Here are 14 strange things that have happened on the campaign trail so far.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

With Labour Day nearing, the 2020 presidential campaigns are kicking it into high gear. 22 candidates are vying for the Democratic nomination and each is making the case they are the best candidate to face off against President Donald Trump next year.

But the ever-changing terrain of the campaign proves they are not immune to gaffes, awkward moments or encountering the strangest of situations.

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Former Vice President Joe Biden leads the field, though his standing has eroded. He still has trouble respecting others’ personal space on the trail, while moderate candidates like Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper have struggled to connect with liberal voters who have booed them or responded with some cringe-inducing indifference.

Others, like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, are simply trying too hard to be relatable and have invited ridicule in doing so.

Then the Iowa State Fair in August invited some strange moments for Democratic presidential candidates Pete Buttigieg and Andrew Yang.

Here are 14 of the weirdest things that have happened on the campaign trail so far:

Elizabeth Warren had a beer with her husband alongside her on Instagram Live — and thanked him for being in their own home.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren addresses the crowd at the Massachusetts Democratic Coordinated Campaign Election Night Celebration in Boston, Massachusetts, on Wednesday, November 7, 2018. Sen. Warren was re-elected Sarah Rice for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Shortly after kicking off her presidential run, Sen. Elizabeth Warren decided to mark the occasion with a beer.

“I’m going to get me a beer,” the Massachusetts senator said in her kitchen. She invited her husband, Bruce Mann, to join but he politely declined. Warren then thanked her husband for being with her in their home.

The video drew some mockery on social media for appearing too forced, CBS News reported.

Daily Show host Trevor Noah weighed in on Warren’s Instagram Live video, saying, “It really is an interesting choice from Warren, just drinking alone in her kitchen. I guess she just wanted to start her campaign the same way Hillary ended hers, you know?”

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke joked about not being an important part of his own family.

Beto O’Rourke is seen campaigning alongside his wife, Amy O’Rourke in New Hampshire on May 9. Charles Krupa/AP

Rep. Beto O’Rourke launched his presidential bid in March to much media fanfare, which included a cover story on Vanity Fair magazine with a photo shoot with the famed photographer Annie Leibovitz.

But it didn’t take long for the former Texas representative to fly too close to the sun and tumble. Just a few hours into his nascent campaign, he joked that his wife raised their three children mostly on her own.

I just got a call from my wife, Amy, who is back in El Paso, Texas where she is raising, sometimes with my help, Ulysses who is 12, Molly who is 10, and their little brother Henry who is 8 years old,” O’Rourke said.

His remarks were widely criticised as insensitive and nonchalant. O’Rourke apologised a few days later and said he’d be more thoughtful talking about his marriage in the future.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar told an audience to clap for her when one of her lines fell flat during a CNN town hall.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., speaks during a forum on Friday, June 21, 2019, in Miami. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson) Associated Press

Sen. Amy Klobuchar was pitching her crossover appeal and election victories in conservative districts at a CNN town hall in April, expecting it to be an applause line.

“When I started running for office, the other senator was Republican, the governor was Republican and three of our four constitutional officers were Republican,” Klobuchar said. And then I started running, and every single time I’ve run, I’ve won every single congressional district in my state, including [former Rep.] Michele Bachmann’s.”

But her message fell flat with the audience.

“That’s when you guys are supposed to cheer,” she said, prodding the crowd into applauding.

The hashtag #PleaseClap started trending on Twitter shortly after and she drew comparisons to Jeb Bush, a 2016 Republican presidential candidate who did the same thing.

However, she did earn some applause throughout the town hall, including with an anecdote about Trump attacking her after launching her campaign in a blizzard.

“When he made fun of me for doing that, I said, ‘Hey, Donald Trump. The science is on my side, and I’d like to see how your hair would fare in a blizzard, Mr. Umbrella Man,'” she said.

Former Vice President Joe Biden continues to have uncomfortable interactions with women and girls on the campaign trail.

Former US Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. AP

A self-described “tactile politician,” former Vice President joe Biden vowed to be “more mindful and respectful of people’s personal space” after four women said he had made them feel uncomfortable with how he had touched them.

But since launching his presidential bid in April, Biden has raised some eyebrows over his interactions with women and girls on the campaign trail.

In May, he told a ten-year-old girl “you’re as bright as you are good-looking,” took her to the assembled press at the back of the room and placed his hands on her shoulders as he talked.

Then in a June campaign swing through Iowa, Biden met a 13-year-old girl and then turned to her brothers, saying, “Keep the guys away from her.”

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg was handed an alcoholic drink in a brown bag at a New York City park.

Democratic presidential candidate South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at the Carroll County Democrats Fourth of July Barbecue, Thursday, July 4, 2019, in Carroll, Iowa. Associated Press/Charlie Niebergall

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg rode a wave of media interviews and social media interest to become one of the Democratic primary’s unlikely top-tier candidates.

In an interview for the Showtime series “Desus and Mero,” the comedy duo told Buttigieg he is “uptown-certified” and handed him a brown-bagged alcoholic drink.

“They say in New York City you’re not allowed to have open containers, but if you put an alcoholic beverage in a brown bag, the cops don’t see it,” Desus says.


Buttigieg takes the drink, saying “When in Rome” and takes a quick swig out of the bottle.

Rep. Eric Swalwell compared the Democrats to the heroes from the “Avengers” comic book and the Republicans to the survivalist characters in the “Hunger Games.”

Eric Swalwell AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

At an Iowa Democratic party candidate forum in June, former candidate Eric Swalwell compared the Democrats to the heroes from the “Avengers” comic book and the Republicans to the hardcore survivalist characters in the “Hunger Games” books.

Swalwell said: “To my fellow candidates, I consider us all a part of being ‘The Avengers.’ The Republicans in 2016, that was ‘The Hunger Games.’ We are in this, and with your help and support, to save this country we love so much.”

It drew mixed reactions online, with Trump organisation executive Donald Trump Jr. being among the most prominent Republicans to rip into Swalwell for the comparison.

Swalwell dropped out of the race in July.

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper leaned into his centrist platform at the California Democratic Primary Convention — and got repeatedly booed.

Gov. John Hickenlooper Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has struggled to break out in the national polls. And when he does register, its usually in the low single digits.

Yet his moderate image may not capture the combative mood of the party’s left wing – and its been visible on the campaign trail.

At the California Democratic Primary Convention, Hickenlooper leaned into his centrist platform at the California Democratic Primary Convention and was booed when he said “socialism is not the answer.”

He lost the room again when he spoke out against universal healthcare and parts of the Green New Deal.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand awkwardly unwound at a gay bar in Iowa.

Kirsten Gillibrand. AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Gillibrand has already received some blowback for trying to run “a cool campaign” that may not be so cool. She ran an ad where she played beer pong with water and was also dinged for posting a workout video.

The junior senator from New York was on a three-day campaign swing through Iowa in early June to mark LGBT Pride month. She spent part of her time preparing drinks for the crowd, according to the Des Moines Register.

Then her campaign posted a video on its Instagram story of Gillibrand drinking and yelling, “Gay rights!”

The brief video sparked another wave of online ridicule.

Author Marianne Williamson said at the first primary debates that Democrats need more than plans to defeat Trump in next year’s presidential election.

Marianne Williamson debating on June 27 Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Author and spiritual lecturer Marianne Williamson said at the second night of Democratic primary debates in late June that the raft of plans that all the candidates are rolling out are not enough to defeat President Donald Trump.

Williamson garnered attention for responding with off-beat and odd answers. Williamson later said that her first call if she were elected president would be to the prime minister of New Zealand to say that the United States would be the best place for a child to grow up.

She was the most searched candidate on Google that night and her previous tweets made her an overnight internet meme.

New York City Bill de Blasio spoke of his love of ska music.

Bill De Blasio discussing his favourite music on ‘New Day’ Screenshot via CNN/’New Day’

Since launching his presidential bid in June New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio has had a few moments that drew mockery from social media for trying to appear relatable. During an interview on CNN’s New Day, he shared that he had a love for ska music.


He also posted a series of text messages with his son, Dante, before appearing at the first Democratic primary debates.

In the exchanges, he asks Dante for advice on how to come off as relatable.

He responds that de Blasio can establish credibility by sharing the story of his marriage, reflecting on “how hard it is to find, like, ‘the one’ on tinder.” Then he advises de Blasio to talk about his accomplishments in the city after making NBA jokes.

The chorus of responses were universal in mocking the mayor.


Williamson told a kid reporter about her cat’s death.

Marianne Williamson. Eric Charbonneau/Invision for YWCA/AP

Williamson was on the sidelines of the July Democratic debate when a kid reporter approached her.

The reporter asked Williamson whether she had any pets.

Williamson replied: “I had a cat and the cat died.”

The young reporter, Jeffrey Kraft, later said he had no idea how to respond to Williamson’s grim answer.

“I didn’t know what to say,” Kraft said.

Buttigieg had a very awkward encounter with a voter in Iowa who said she shook Robert Kennedy’s hand a month before he was assassinated.

Democratic presidential candidate South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks in Iowa. Associated Press/Charlie Niebergall

Buttigieg was at the Iowa State Fair in mid-August when he met a woman who said she shook Robert Kennedy’s hand.

“So you’re good luck?” he asked.

“Not really,” she replied. “He was shot a month later.”

Buttigieg’s conversation with the voter went viral on Twitter. Kennedy was a Democratic presidential candidate and US Senator from New York when he was assassinated in June 1968.

Andrew Yang tore into Trump’s physical fitness, calling him “fat.”

Andrew Yang enjoying a corndog at the Iowa State Fair Scott Morgan/Reuters

At the Iowa State Fair, Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang took potshots at Trump, tearing into his physical fitness.

“I can’t be eating crap on the trail too often, because I need to stay in presidential form,” Yang said. He added no one wants “a president who doesn’t seem they can run a mile.”

Yang continued criticising Trump, saying, “Like, what could Donald Trump possibly be better than me at? An eating contest?”

He finished his extended riff by saying that Trump could beat him at “”something that involved, like, trying to keep something on the ground and having really large body mass – like, if there was a hot-air balloon that was rising and you needed to try and keep it on the ground, he would be better than me at that, because he is so fat.”

De Blasio had his voice distorted on a Iowa video link, making it sound like he inhaled helium.

Bill De Blasio Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

De Blasio fell victim to an audio-induced mishap at a Iowa labour event in mid-August.

Newsweek reported the New York City mayor had been scheduled to appear at the event but his flight was cancelled due to poor weather.

The Democratic presidential candidate arranged for a video link to deliver remarks championing the labour movement, but things played out differently.

The connection distorted De Blasio’s voice into a higher pitch, making it sound he had inhaled helium. And it drew some laughter from the crowd.

Organisers later replayed the video with De Blasio’s normal voice.

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