Inside the Pennsylvania Bakery Whose ‘Cookie Count’ Called the Last 3 Elections – Vogue

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It’s not even 2 p.m. in Hatboro, Pennsylvania, on the day before Election Day, and Lochel’s Bakery is all sold out of Trump cookies. “We’re out for today,” owner Kathleen Romano Lochel calls to the crowd of people—mostly women, almost all white—who have been lining up outside the cozy, teal-painted bakery since well before its 6 a.m. opening time.

Lochel’s has been a local favorite ever since it opened its Hatboro location in 1984, best known for its elaborate, multitiered wedding and confirmation cakes. This level of attention, though, is something nobody—least of all its owners—could have predicted. Customers are driving in from New Jersey, Virginia, Delaware, and beyond; orders are coming in from all over the country; members of the press, including a pair of Russian reporters from Moscow TV, circle the line hungrily.

The reason for Lochel’s sudden celebrity? The cookies. In 2008, the Lochel family, who has owned the bakery for three generations, experimented with selling sugar cookies iced with the names of Barack Obama and John McCain, inviting customers to buy their preferred candidate’s cookie and tallying up the results. The winner was Obama, and two months later, he was sworn in as president. The same thing happened in 2012, and soon, Lochel’s “cookie count” became as accurate a bellwether as any for the results of the presidential election. (More so than some polls, even; when national polling had Hillary Clinton leading in 2016, Lochel’s cookie count correctly pointed to Donald Trump.)

The notion of an iced, liberally sprinkled cookie predicting the results of an American election might sound bizarre, but as in all things, context matters. Lochel’s is in Montgomery County, a region just 30 minutes from Philadelphia that has traditionally skewed blue. Montgomery County, though, sits squarely in Pennsylvania, a state whose battleground status cannot be overestimated; just a few hours north lies Luzerne County, whose 2016 swing toward Donald Trump was the subject of a 2018 book.

Jean, a Lochel’s employee, showing off two of the bakery’s signature cakes.
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Cailin, Lochel’s store manager, with a fresh batch of Trump cookies.

Superstition and sugar aside, there’s plenty to be learned from the people lined up outside Lochel’s just 24 hours before the polls open in Pennsylvania. “If I were to put on social media that I support Trump, I feel I would lose friends,” says Megan, 32, who lives just 15 minutes from Lochel’s. “I’m not embarrassed, but I’m not going to make myself a target; I’m more of the silent majority.”

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