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Dear Friends,

The likeability of a presidential candidate is important to both political parties and to the American people. Some of us will vote less on the content of a candidate's character and convictions than whether or not he seems "nice."

The cover story of this week's Time Magazine is titled, "Why They Don't Like Mitt (Romney)." A Los Angeles Times poll last month found Newt Gingrich to be "one of the least likeable candidates." And in a poll reported by the Des Moines Register, Michele Bachmann was rated as the "least likeable" of the Republican presidential candidates.

During one of the 2008 presidential debates, this exchange occurred between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama:

Then-Senator Hillary Clinton was asked about her deficit of "likeability" and joked that the question hurt her feelings but she would "try to go on." The audience laughed and Clinton , looking over at fellow candidate for the Democratic nomination Barack Obama, admitted "he's very likable - I agree with that." "I don't think I'm that bad," Clinton said, smiling. Obama barely looked up from his notes. "You're likeable enough, Hillary," he said.

In one respect, these perceptions are meaningless: Many of us like people for whom we would not vote for President, and support presidential contenders we might not want for neighbors. Moreover, one person's likeability is another's distaste: Subjective impressions about likeability should be far down the list on our electoral criteria.

Character counts far more than likeability. A person can be winsome, charismatic, and funny, and also be a serial adulterer. On the other hand, someone might be socially stiff and a bit awkward and be an exemplar of sterling virtues. Ideally, we want to be able to support someone both pleasant and principled. But should not principle triumph over a ready smile, if it comes to that?

"A vote is like a rifle," wrote Theodore Roosevelt in his autobiography. "Its usefulness depends upon the character of the user." As each of us thinks and prays about our vote in the 2012 primaries and general election, let's bear in mind that our choices will reflect our own character as much as that of those for whom we vote.


Rob Schwarzwalder

Senior Vice President

Family Research Council

P.S. It's been two months since the military opened its doors to homosexuality. Lt. Col. Bob Maginnis (USA-Ret.) was a member of the 1993 Pentagon team that wrote the so-called "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy. In his new paper Looking Back, Looking Forward: Homosexuality and Military Service, Maginnis details how America's armed forces have become a cultural battleground for advancing the radical gay agenda.



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