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Opinion

The next president? Ask a kid.

When all else fails, maybe we rely on our inner child to make the big decision.

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SenatorClinton: Zero votes. "She looks like somebody's in trouble," said a boy, age 7. (As a voter I don't necessarily consider that a bad thing, but it turned off the kids.) One girl, 9 years old, shook her head saying, "It's just not going to be a woman and if it was it'd be Oprah!"

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I took a second bite out of that apple of truth when the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) in Boston released a study in which it traced the family trees of all three presidential candidates. The local newspaper ran photos of Senator Obama with Brad Pitt, Clinton with Angelina Jolie and McCain with first lady Laura Bush in a sort of side-by-side comparison of genetic mug shots.

I took the newspaper to the park and showed it to a pack of Girl Scouts selling cookies outside a local market.

Out of all the mug shots the children believed only Mr. Pitt was truly happy, pegging the others as "camera smiles." McCain got sympathy votes from young boys nearby for having to be compared "to a girl." The first lady worried them with nearly every child asking if she was ill. Even smiling Clinton was still "angry." Obama was judged "tense" and "a nice guy who looks really tired." One little girl called Pitt "fierce," but this was a compliment having to do with the TV show Project Runway, which has recoined the word to mean edgy and not scary.

Would I bet the ranch on a presidential candidate chosen by a child? Consider this: Every child to whom I have ever shown a photo of President Bush was drawn to him and said they would pick him because he was someone they understood.

Children do seem to be a unique divining rod for finding when a candidate has lost heart, looks sick, tired, mean, scared, or confused. Perhaps when entering the voting booth the majority of voters are so overwhelmed by all the conflicting information, slick ads, and responsibility of the action they are about to take that they just fall back on listening to their inner child.

Instead of putting millions of dollars a week into campaign ads and polls from now until November, maybe candidates should donate a chunk to early education programs. That way everybody wins.

Lisa Suhay writes from Norfolk, Va., and is the author of eight children's books.

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