Election '08 (to an 8-year-old)

He doesn't understand why Hillary Clinton can't trade Bill to the Republicans for Mitt Romney and a state to be named later.

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I knew that election season was in full swing the day my 8-year-old son came down to breakfast wearing a bathrobe to which he had affixed his entire collection of historic campaign buttons.

He sat at the table sleepily, eating Cocoa Krispies and strawberries while his hair rippled in the breeze from the overhead fan. From his lapel, a light-up "Dole in '96!" pin blinked at irregular intervals, its ancient battery almost exhausted.

"So, Daniel," I said, "who are you supporting?"

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He inspected his memorabilia as if looking for inspiration. Then he pointed to a small button that I think is his favorite.

"Al Smith's not running this year," I said.

He finished his cereal, then drank the milk from his bowl. He looked up and gave me this pitying stare he gets, as if he's Tim Russert and he's about to roll incriminating video.

"Obama," he said. "I got his button when we went to Union Station. Plus I collect state quarters, and he says he supports change."

That's my son – the third-grade pundit.

As I've mentioned previously in this space, it isn't always easy living with a politically inclined elementary student. Other kids at bedtime want their parents to read them a story. Daniel will look up from one of his almanacs, lean over the railing of his bunk, and say, "Dad, what can you tell me about the Progressive Era?"

He even scares his teachers. The other day, his class had to do this complicated math sheet/acrostic, where they multiplied numbers, then matched their answers to letters, then used the letters to spell out the name of the president whose face is on the $100,000 bill.

Daniel wrote down the answer in about two seconds. (It's Woodrow Wilson, in case you're interested.) He didn't have to bother with the math. We got a note home about that one. ("DID HE JUST KNOW THIS???!!" wrote Ms. Phillips.)

On the other hand, it's been interesting to watch an actual presidential campaign play out through the eyes of someone who thinks Hannah Montana is old.

First of all, Daniel doesn't care a whit about ideology. Republicans and Democrats are just teams, like the Washington Nationals and his beloved Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

But he doesn't quite get that sports and politics aren't the same. No, I tell him, Hillary Clinton cannot trade Bill to the Republicans for Mitt Romney and a state to be named later. John Edwards isn't a free agent about to sign with the GOP.

Daniel views candidates through the lens of what he knows – history. So he likes Obama, because Obama reminds him of John F. Kennedy. He likes John McCain, because McCain looks like someone who maybe knew John F. Kennedy.

(He can't figure out the modern Kennedys. Too many of them. For some reason, he thinks Ted Kennedy is Arnold Schwarzenegger's father.)

So, anyway, after breakfast Daniel stood up, buttons clanking like chain mail, and started to wander toward the living room.

"Where are you going?" I said. "You haven't even read the comics."

"Upstairs to see Andrew," he said, referring to his older brother. "We're gonna play cable news. And it's my turn to be Wolf Blitzer."

Peter Grier is a staff writer in Washington.

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