Republican presidential hopeful, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani talks about his tax plan during a campaign stop in Manchester in August. Later that day, Giuliani visited a tourist-filled lobster shack in Seabrook, in the same tie and crisp white shirt, as guests with flip-flops on their feet cracked lobster bodies with their bare hands.
SEABROOK — Thou shalt not wear a shirt and tie at a lobster shack near a New Hampshire beach. Thou shalt not invoke upscale grocery stores while campaigning in farm-rich Iowa. And thou shalt not call South Carolina's Lowcountry "the lowlands."
For every must-do, must-see tradition or place in the critical states that kick off voting for the presidential nominations, there is an equally important list of must-avoid steps. Some candidates, however, apparently didn't get the memo about what's incongruous or sometimes annoying to voters in New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani made a trip this summer to a tourist-filled lobster shack in Seabrook. In sweltering heat, the Republican rolled up in his black SUV wearing a bold red tie and crisp white shirt.
As guests with flip-flops on their feet cracked lobster bodies with their bare hands, Giuliani got a laugh by rolling up his sleeves, grabbing a live lobster from a tank and holding it aloft.
"How about the lobster?" he asked, never loosening his tie. "Everybody has the lobster."
Fellow Republican Mitt Romney went through the same hazing ritual, tie tight and lobster in hand. Laughter — including from wife Ann — followed.
Democratic Sen. Barack Obama tried talking business with farmers in Adel, Iowa, in August to demonstrate empathy and win votes. But then he referred to a high-end organic food chain that has no stores in Iowa.
"Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula?" said Obama, who lives in Chicago. "I mean, they're charging a lot of money for this stuff."
And in South Carolina — where the H is silent in Horry Country — the names matter. Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who mastered most of the names during her husband's campaigns, goofed by calling the state's coastal area "the lowlands" rather than the preferred "Lowcountry."
To be sure, campaigning in the early voting states is an art. Voters want to see would-be-presidents at their neighborhood store, serving up ice cream as Romney did in Kingston, awkwardly tossing a bright green T-shirt over his dress shirt and tie.
"Oh gosh, I'm not as strong as these girls," Romney said, sliding behind the counter for a photo opportunity. "Just have me do some soft serve."
Such campaign stops are meticulously choreographed, with crowds assembled, stickers in hand and pledge cards ready.
"Part of the problem is that everyone tries to be so disciplined, golly, you worry about the spontaneity," said Kathy Sullivan, a former Democratic chairwoman in New Hampshire. When Republican Fred Thompson stopped by a Manchester sports bar recently, the customers were more interested in watching the New England Patriots than shaking hands with the "Law & Order" actor.
"Down in front," one voter joked to the former Tennessee senator as the 6-foot-5 candidate blocked his view of quarterback Tom Brady and the rest of the Patriots.
The disruption — he and the throng of journalists standing in front of a big-screen television — prompted Thompson to take his cheeseburger back to his bus and forced his host, Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta, to offer up his untouched light beer to a nearby table.
The event was not long after Thompson's trip to the Iowa State Fair, where the Republican rode around in a golf cart and wore Ferragamo shoes.
There are plenty more 'don'ts' on the list:
— Don't schedule a trip without looking at a map, as aides to former Sen. John Edwards apparently did when they promoted a campaign swing through New Hampshire's North Country, but included stops far from that region.
— Don't forget where you are, as Giuliani apparently did when he referred to "the people here in Massachusetts" during a speech in New Hampshire. Not quite as bad, Obama repeatedly called New Hampshire's Belknap County "Bell Camp" during an early trip.
— Don't get the governor's name wrong, as Thompson did with South Carolina's Mark Sanford. (Thompson called him Sandford.)
— Don't get the name of the party chairman wrong, as Romney did with Fergus Cullen at a New Hampshire Republican gala. Romney called him Angus, a name Cullen has embraced as a joke.
— Don't assume food comes ready to eat, as candidates in South Carolina have done. In that state, political barbecue means roasted pig and hands-on messiness. "You peel shrimp and shuck oysters," said Romney political consultant Warren Tompkins. More than 20 years later, some remember when Walter Mondale didn't peel and got more than a mouthful.
Sports are another pitfall, as 2004 Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry learned at least twice. Kerry called the Green Bay Packers' famous Lambeau Field "Lambert Field" and talked about the Ohio State Buckeyes while in Michigan, home of the Buckeyes' archrival.
But Kerry's biggest of-the-people mistake was visiting South Philadelphia and ordering a cheese steak — with Swiss. It was a punchline for weeks.
Giuliani, aware of that particular challenge, ordered his Geno's sandwich with provolone and onions. At the packed event, he wore a suit and tie.
Associated Press Writers Holly Ramer in New Hampshire and Jim Davenport in South Carolina contributed to this report.