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Will candidates' wives play a role?

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Posted: Friday, June 20, 2008 10:00 pm

I'm reviewing the two presidential candidates to see which one has the advantage in intangibles.

Republican Sen. John McCain's home base doesn't amount to much. McCain comes from the electoral vote-poor Arizona (it has 10), a state that will vote for any GOP candidate.

McCain's opponent, Sen. Barack Obama, represents Illinois with a healthy 21 electoral votes. But Illinois is automatic for any Democrat. Ronald Reagan was the last Republican to carry Illinois - 20 years and five elections ago.

Many analysts predict that the vice-presidential nominees might determine who wins. I disagree. In 2004, John Edwards couldn't deliver North Carolina to the head of the Democratic ticket, John Kerry.

And in 2000, Dick Cheney had no home base. You'll recall that Cheney lived in Texas. But when someone found out that the Constitution prohibits the president and vice president from being inhabitants of the same state then - presto, chango - Cheney suddenly lived in Wyoming.

Not that it mattered to Bush electoral vote-wise anyway. Bush had Texas in the bag. Wyoming added only a paltry three votes to the party.

Pundits say that Obama is smoother than McCain and will eat him up in their head-to-head debates.

But despite being incoherent on many occasions during the first four years of his presidency, Bush forged ahead. Kerry was the more eloquent in their 2004 debates. What good did it do him?

What about the first ladies in waiting?

While many Americans are ready to elect a mixed-race president, some have deep reservations about Michelle Obama, Barack's all-black wife who has a chip on her shoulder. According Michelle, she only recently became a "proud" American.

But Cindy McCain has image problems galore. The heiress to a beer fortune, Mrs. McCain has been addicted to prescription drugs and has had a lot of plastic surgery. And Cindy stole another woman's husband. No one likes a home-wrecker, especially when she owns a jet, has dyed platinum hair and wears designer clothes.

If Cindy's a home wrecker, then that makes John an adulterer.

Again, McCain's philandering may not matter. Way back in 1828, John Quincy Adams questioned - to no avail in his presidential re-election bid - the legality of his rival Andrew Jackson's marriage (there were bureaucratic foul-ups).

Six decades later, according to rumors that he did not deny, bachelor Grover Cleveland fathered a son, but was still elected.

Finally in 1992, Bill Clinton admitted that he had "caused pain" in his marriage but won the presidency handily.

McCain's indiscretions are more shameless than any adulterous president. His ex-wife, Carol Shepp, had been disfigured in an auto accident while McCain was in Vietnam. When McCain returned, he embarked on a series of extramarital relationships before he met Cindy and unceremoniously dumped the crippled Shepp.

Since neither his wife nor his power of persuasion are likely to influence many voters, McCain will count heavily on his military record to take him to the White House.

But why should he put any faith in that? George Herbert Walker Bush and Bob Dole, both true World War II heroes, lost overwhelmingly to Clinton, a draft dodger.

And before Kerry's campaign could get off the ground, his decorated Vietnam service was hotly debated and soon became a liability. After Karl Rove got through with Kerry, half the nation thought he spent his two Southeast Asian tours as a Viet Cong agent.

Boiled down to its bare bones, the election comes down to this: Obama is a black, liberal Democrat running in a predominantly white, moderate America.

McCain is in the unenviable position of being a Republican trying to replace the most disliked Republican in American history. Worse, McCain shares many of Bush's unpopular views on Iraq, immigration and free trade.

For voters, Obama and McCain represent a challenging November choice. The election's outcome will depend on how many angry citizens show up to express their outrage at America's demise or stay away as an expression of their frustration with the meager presidential pickings.

As for me, I'm sticking to my long-held aversion to major political party candidates. I'll vote - but not for either of them.

Joe Guzzardi is an instructor at the Lincoln Tech Academy. Contact him at guzzjoe@yahoo.com.

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