With only 18 months left until the 2008 presidential election - I must admit that I know more about some of the potential first spouses, than I've known about some of the presidential candidates I've voted for in my life.
One of the benefits(?) to the early start of the '08 race for the White House is that we're really getting to know the wives of the men who would be president. I don't mean to slight one of the leading contenders for the job, but I think it goes without saying that we already know her spouse - maybe a little too intimately.
And what I'm starting to wonder is how much influence the spouse will have, when I go the voting booth in November of next year.
Take for instance Michelle Obama, who recently announced she's quitting her job as vice president of community and external affairs at University of Chicago Hospitals, to work full time on her husband's campaign. "It will be the first time that I haven't gotten up and gone to a job," Obama told The WaPost. "It's a bit disconcerting," she said. "But it's not like I'll be bored." Ms. Obama has been a big hit on the campaign trail, telling the scores of folks who are looking for a political messiah that to her, Barak Obama is just an average man who puts his pants on one leg at a time...and only sometimes remembers to put his dirty socks in the hamper. What does Michelle Obama say about Barak Obama?
You could probably say with a certain degree of certainty, that people feel like they know Elizabeth Edwards more than they do her husband. Her Stage IV cancer diagnosis, particularly her graceful handling of it, propelled her way beyond her husband's campaign and onto a stage of a different sort. Even jaded liberal NYTimes columnist Frank Rich gushed about her in a Sunday column titled "Elizabeth Edward for President." What does Elizabeth Edwards say about John Edwards?
We've learned that Ann Romney first met her future husband Mitt, in grade school, and that they've been together as a couple since high school. She raised five sons while her husband raised his professional and political profile. We've also learned that Ann was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis nearly ten years ago, and has been very active in that, as well as a number of other charitable causes. Although she has preferred to stay in the background as her husband seeks higher office, The Boston Globe noted a year ago that Romney's people believe Ann may be his best asset as the campaign wears on. What does Ann Romney say about Mitt Romney?
And of course there's the big question of how Bill Clinton would adjust to his role as First Spouse. Hillary Clinton has said he would serve as "ambassador to the world." Just how indicative is his campaign role of "master strategist" (as The NYTimes called it today) and fund raiser-in chief? What does Bill Clinton say about Hillary Clinton?
On the other side of the coin - what do Regina Peruggi, Donna Hanover and now Judith Nathan say about Rudy Giuliani? Or how about 33-year old Jeri Kehn, former political consultant and now wife to 64-year old GOP candidate-in-waiting Fred Thompson?
For the past 30 years, the role the women behind the candidates has played in presidential campaigns has run parallel to the changing and increasingly powerful role women play in all aspects of our society. Even so, The WaPost says "rarely have political spouses played as dynamic a role as in the current presidential campaign."
But is it because we've got so much time to burn before the election? Or is it because political spouses are seen as a reflection of the candidate him/herself?
Or it is because marriage today has become a partnership of equals - and a president's spouse is truly as important an element to take into consideration in the voting booth as a candidate's policy stances?
It brings a whole new meaning to the term "running mate."
How much weight will or should a candidate's spouse play in your next vote for president?
On the grind
Always runnin' here and there
Chasin' the money
So much jibber jabbers
Cloggin' up our soul
Where are we runnin'...