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Good looks factor

IN spite of all the sophisticated analyses regarding the outcome of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, one obvious observation has been overlooked: I call it the good-looks-charisma barometer. A successful candidate for the White House must be good-looking or have charisma.

That may appear to be a terrible commentary on the US political system, but it is scarcely new. When the nation underwent democratization in the early 1800s , good-looking men became the favorite sons of voters - a turnabout from the era of Washington through John Quincy Adams.

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Andrew Jackson's elevation to the White House would change all that. A striking man (take a look at his portrait on the $20 bill), Jackson was the first of a whole stream of attractive chief executives in the 19th century who would find difficulty in achieving high marks from posterity. Not a few were incompetent.

If a candidate wasn't pretty, it was almost imperative that he had charisma, exemplified perhaps by military outfit or martial accomplishments, as in the case of Gen. Zachary Taylor. According to an account at the time, Taylor was ''short, fat and dumpy in person, with remarkably short legs.'' But he was something to view on the battlefield!

Television has done for good-looking candidates what posters, newspapers, and the stump did for them in the 19th century. In both eras candidates often didn't differ substantially in terms of their platforms, and their nuances of platform differences were difficult to perceive. Therefore, looks became critical.

Gary Hart has an abundance of thick hair (covering jug ears), youthful eyes, a not offensive nose, and a good set of choppers. Walter Mondale, on the other hand, suffers from a somewhat aquiline nose as well as - like me - clear eyes made doleful by dark shadows under the periphery.

If the former vice-president is going to capture the Democratic nomination, he needs to put on a new face or increase his charisma. Of course, he might choose to remain skeptical of my ''body language'' analysis. I just hope he doesn't give it - excuse me - lip service.

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