It’s been nearly 19 months since Hillary Clinton announced she would seek the Democratic nomination and 16 months since Donald Trump threw his hat into the ring for the Republicans. Throughout that span, the campaign has taken endless twists and turns, not to mention the scandals and controversial statements that in a normal election cycle would have all but destroyed a candidate’s chances of winning.
And while it can’t hold a candle to the other absurdities of the campaign, there was also the strange fact that Denmark kept popping up again and again along the road to the White House. Yes, tiny little Denmark, with its 5.6 million people, received a lot of attention – both wanted and unwanted – during Clinton and Trump’s battle for the world’s most powerful position.
Here is a look back at the times when the US election took decidedly Danish turns.
1. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders argue over who loves Denmark more
Denmark was first thrust into the spotlight by Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, a self-defined “democratic socialist” who has often pointed to the Nordic Model as something that the United States should emulate.
In his first debate with Clinton, held in October 2015, Sanders did it again.
“When you look around the world, you see every other major country providing health care to all people as a right, except the United States. You see every other major country saying to moms that, when you have a baby, we’re not going to separate you from your newborn baby, because we are going to have — we are going to have medical and family paid leave, like every other country on Earth,” Sanders said.
“Those are some of the principles that I believe in, and I think we should look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway, and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people,” the senator continued.
Debate moderator Anderson Cooper was quick to point out that comparisons to Denmark might not be that simple.
“Denmark is a country that has a population of 5.6 million people,” the CNN host said.
When Clinton took the mic, she agreed with Sanders about the problem of inequality in the United States but distanced herself from his comparisons to Scandinavia.
“But we are not Denmark. I love Denmark. We are the United States of America. And it’s our job to rein in the excesses of capitalism so that it doesn’t run amok and doesn’t cause the kind of inequities we’re seeing in our economic system,” the Democratic front-runner said.
Called out by name four times in the exchange, Denmark may have been the debate’s true winner.
2. Ted Cruz says Trump would “nuke Denmark”
Over on the Republican side, Denmark was used not as a model of policies to emulate but rather as an example of Trump’s volatility and perceived lack of knowledge on foreign affairs.
After Trump accused rival Ted Cruz of having “illegally stole” the Iowa caucus victory in February, Cruz struck back by saying Trump is too childish and reckless to become president.
“It is no surprise that Donald is throwing yet another temper tantrum or if you like, another Trumpertantrum,” Cruz said.
“I don’t know anyone who would be comfortable with someone who behaves this way having his finger on the button. We’re liable to wake up one morning and Donald, if he were president, would have nuked Denmark. That’s not the temperament of a leader to keep this country safe,” the conservative senator added.
Read more: Trump would 'nuke Denmark', rival Cruz says
3. Danish PM tries to teach Americans about Denmark
Perhaps knowing very well that for many in the US “socialism” is akin to a dirty word, Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen went to great pains in a November 2015 address at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government to address Americans’ misunderstandings of Denmark.
“I know that some people in the US associate the Nordic model with some sort of socialism. Therefore I would like to make one thing clear. Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy,” Rasmussen said.
“The Nordic model is an expanded welfare state which provides a high level of security for its citizens, but it is also a successful market economy with much freedom to pursue your dreams and live your life as you wish,” he added.
Rasmussen’s full speech can be viewed here:
Read more: Danish PM in US: Denmark is not socialist
4. Trump goes too far even for the Danish People’s Party
Trump's call for all Muslims to be banned from entering the United States was roundly condemned by MPs from across the Danish political spectrum with even the notoriously anti-immigration Danish People's Party strongly condemning the remarks.
“It is just stupid. He says the most crazy things, but this must be one of the craziest things he's ever come out with,” Søren Espersen, a spokesman for the anti-immigration Danish People's Party, told Jyllands-Posten. Espersen himself is known as a ‘hardliner' in a party that advocates reducing ‘non-Western' immigration to Denmark.
Espersen, who is the chairman of parliament's Foreign Policy Committee, even went so far as to say that Denmark should “review” its relationship to the US if Trump wins.
“At the moment, we almost blindly follow the US and are always prepared to support them. It is not certain that would continue were Trump to be elected. I think the USA would wake up with a bad hangover the day after his election.”
5. CNN comes to see what the fuss is about
The repeated mentions of Denmark spurred CNN to send correspondent Chris Moody to Copenhagen to report on the tiny nation playing a strangely prominent role in the US presidential campaign.
The US media outlet explored this strange fantasy land where people “have access to child care, state-guaranteed medical and parental leave from work, free college tuition in which students receive a paycheck from the government during enrolment, free health care and a generous pension, all of which Sanders supports.”
Part of the CNN report can be viewed below, while the rest can be found here.
Read more: CNN tries to 'feel the Bern' in Denmark
6. Danish foreign minister slams Trump
Danes breathlessly tuned in for the results of the ’Super Tuesday’ primary contests on March 1st.
Like many of his countrymen, Danish Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen hardly seemed to be able to believe it when Trump emerged as the night’s big winner. Jensen said that Trump could prove to be very difficult to work with should be become president.
“Trump is really like pulling a raffle ticket – and we'd pull a new one every morning. It would be an amazing roller coaster ride if Trump wins,” Jensen told broadcaster DR.
“Trump is completely unpredictable. It would be much, much more difficult to work with the US. Because you'd never know what he will believe tomorrow,” the foreign minister added. “He changes opinions like the rest of us change underwear.”
8. Trump uses Copenhagen to portray Obama as weak
Denmark was brought back into the spotlight in April by none other than Trump himself, who used President Barack Obama's 2009 trip to the Danish capital to criticize the administration's foreign policy.
“Do you remember when the president made a long, expensive trip to Copenhagen, Denmark, to get the Olympics for our country? And, after this unprecedented effort, it was announced that the United States came in fourth. Fourth place,” Trump said while speaking at the Center for the National Interest in Washington.
See Trump's remarks here, story continues below.
“He should have known the result before making such an embarrassing commitment. We were laughed at all over the world as we have been many, many times. The list of humiliations go on and on and on,” Trump added.
7. Americans in Denmark give Sanders land-slide win
Although it didn’t propel him to the Democratic nomination, Americans in Denmark gave Bernie Sanders an overwhelming victory in the ‘Global Primary’ held in conjunction with Super Tuesday.
According to Democrats Abroad, Sanders received 167 in-person votes to just 53 for Clinton.
9. Danish PM trades jokes with Obama
As the campaign raged on, Rasmussen and his fellow Nordic leaders were treated to an official State Dinner at the White House in May.
The Danish PM cracked some well-received jokes at the formal gala, holding his own against Obama’s “comedian-in-chief” persona and providing some levity in an intense political environment.
“I’m very fond of ‘The Donald’ too. I support him as president, he’s very smart, shows great leadership skills, a true visionary. And I’m of course talking about Donald Tusk, our Polish president of the European Council,” the PM joked.
Rasmussen’s remarks begin at around the 14:00 mark.
10. Danish anti-Trump bus ad goes viral
The leftist Socialist People’s Party (SF) managed to roll out what some international observers called the best anti-Trump ad of the entire campaign.
The party paid for a bus ad encouraging Americans abroad to vote in the election. Just who SF wanted the Americans to vote for was made quite obvious by the the close-up of Republican candidate Donald Trump's face in which the wheels of the bus were made to give him a pair of googly eyes.
Video and photos of the bus ad quickly went viral and the story was picked up by a number of American and international media outlets.