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On Husbands, Wives, Second Wives -- and the State of the Union

February 7, 2008 By:
Roy S. Gutterman, JE Feature
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In this extended political season, I am officially making an announcement: I will not run, nor will I accept, a nomination for the presidency.

Even though the general election is still almost 10 months away and the primary season will be wrapped up in a week or two -- way earlier than in years past -- we are emerging from a crowded slate of candidates.

My announcement here is not rooted in a disinterest in politics. I like politics and public policy, and covered them back when I was a newspaper reporter. My declination is not even based on my surefire inability to raise the requisite $100 million that I'd need to compete in a national election.

There are no skeletons in my closet that I know of. I've never been arrested for drunk driving. I have never hired illegal aliens to mow my lawn or work as a nanny. And my telephone number will not appear on any Washington brothel ledgers or on the walls in the Minneapolis airport bathroom.

The real reason I will not be running for president is that as a single, unmarried guy, I am unelectable.

No major candidate running for president was single.

Even Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich has a hot wife, who he courted after a highly publicized singles tour. Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, a remarried widower, went on "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno last year to, among other things, talk about the tragic car accident that killed his first wife.

On the Republican side, it seems like to run for president, you had to have a two-wife minimum. Self-proclaimed "America's Mayor" Rudy Giuliani's on his third wife. Not only did she join him on his ill-fated Florida-only campaign, but he said that she would also sit in on presidential cabinet meetings.

Former senator and popular actor Fred Thompson abdicated his seat as New York City's District Attorney on "Law & Order" to run for president. Some critics said that he joined the race to please his second wife, a former Republican strategist often described as a "trophy wife." Flowers would have been cheaper than a national campaign that never caught on.

John McCain, on the trail with his second wife, is picking up momentum on his "straight-talk express."

The only candidate most likely to have multiple wives, even at the same time, is former Massachusetts governor and practicing Mormon Mitt Romney. But Romney likes to lacquer on tales that he married his high school sweetheart (almost as much as his hair gel). And he was known to tout the fact that among the main GOP candidates, he was still married to wife No. 1.

Many of these relationships paint an incongruous picture of these gray, pale, wrinkly guys with pert, mostly blonde women young enough to be their daughters. But that's another issue.

A Bipartisan Issue
Campaigning spousal issues are bipartisan, however. There's plenty of Democratic baggage to throw around, even if I might not be able to identify Michelle Obama if I tripped over her at a polling place.

Over the summer, perhaps the most vocal spouse on the trail was Elizabeth Edwards. She even took time away from her cancer treatments last year (probably while her husband, former Sen. John Edwards, was getting a $400 haircut) to pick a fight with ultra-conservative columnist Ann Coulter live on MSNBC.

Indeed, Mrs. Edwards played a prominent role in her husband's so-called populist campaign. Early in the season, the former senator held a press conference to announce that he was still running, despite his wife's relapse.

But the winner of all spousal campaigning candidates are the Clintons. Back in 1992, I covered the New Hampshire presidential primary and got to see Hillary up close.

She, like many of the other candidate wives, was working as a chief campaign adviser. She was running just as much as her husband. She famously said that she was not going to stay at home baking cookies, like Tammy Wynette. Many political observers believe that to be the year that transformed the role of the candidate spouse.

This time around with the Clintons, the roles have gone into reverse. Throughout the primary season, former President Bill Clinton has been labeled "campaigner-in-chief." He's even made critical statements about other Democratic candidates. Perhaps, in the coming years, when more women run for office, there might be a "trophy husband" on the campaign trail.

As the spouses come out for their photo ops, they also lend a hand in developing policy and proposals. In today's political climate, spouses are crucial elements to the modern campaign machine. Partners, confidants, advisers -- all with the benefit of the marital privilege (I'm referring to confidentiality -- get your mind out of the gutter).

So, even if I wanted to run for president, I'd at least need a girlfriend -- and someone protective. After all, I'd need someone to defend me against Ann Coulter.

Roy S. Gutterman is a Syracuse, N.Y.-based writer. To contact him, visit: www.Lrev.com.


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