A new Associated Press-Ipsos poll says 55 percent of those surveyed consider honesty, integrity and other values of character the most important qualities they look for in a presidential candidate.
Strategists from both major parties agree. According to the AP article, Ken Mehlman, the Goon who ran Dubya's 2004 election campaign, (notice I didn't say: RE-election?) is quoted saying: "Voters only look at policies as a lens into what type of person the candidate is".
On the Democratic side of the aisle, Chris Lehane offered this insight: "Modern day presidential campaigns are essentially character tests, with character broadly defined to encompass a mosaic of traits -- looks, likability, vision, philosophy, ideology, biography, communications skills, intelligence, strength, optimism, empathy, ethics, values, among others" .
Granted, Mehlman and Lehane are both controversial figures. Lehane was the Campaign Spokesman for Gore in 2000 and encouraged Kerry to say nasty things about Howard Dean in 2004. Mehlman, as previously mentioned, was part of the D.O.P. (Damned Old Party) Team that felt that they should win at least one of their four year terms. Both will be accused of playing "politics as usual".
It is because of men like this, the high minded will say, that we are forced to choose between two empty suits each year...and isn't it time for a change?
But I can't shake the conviction that Mehlman and Lehane are right. After all, the AP story notes that, even though voters had already begun turning from the war in Iraq, they didn't turn from Bush until they began to doubt his character.
I can't help but believe that the American voter is basically an uncomplicated animal at heart: we make our decisions about leadership the same way elk do. We watch the bucks (and this year, one doe) prance back and forth waving their antlers in the fresh morning air, posing, pawing at the ground, and occasionally butting heads.
Then, we choose the elk with the biggest rack.
AP Poll: Character Trumps Policy for Voters, by Ron Fournier and Trevor Tompson, March 11, 2007
The Spinner: How Chris Lehane, revered by some and reviled by others, gets the campaign consultant job done
Daily Kos: Chris Lehane is history, September 15, 2003