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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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When it comes to the United States presidency, kids vote for the darnedest things. It seems as though they can see right through political image.

Years ago, my eldest son, about 7 then, came into the room while an Al Gore for president commercial was on TV and said, "He's gonna lose." Asked to explain, he said, "His eyes look too worried."

I realize that relying on children to predict the president is a little like relying on Princess, the New Jersey camel who picked the NFL winners. However, Princess did pick the New York Giants to win the Super Bowl this year, so maybe there is a little something to basic animal instinct.

Children don't accept "vote for the party, not the person" as a way of choosing a leader. They look the candidate in the eye to see if anybody they like is in there.

And call it like they see it.

According to my baby book, at age 6, I said to my mother's business associate, "My mommy's 42 years old, but she looks way younger than you and you're supposed to be the same age, right? Maybe you should check your birthday." Lucky for me, my mother was a big Art Linkletter fan and laughed it off.

I met Mr. Linkletter last year when he was on a book tour, told him that tale and that I now have four sons. He winked and said, "Kids are the mirror we should look into more often. You're lucky to have so many. You'll never miss an angle!"

When I began to notice children discussing the elections this year I decided to look into their reflections of the candidates. I talked to several dozen youngsters, then took a random dozen for an impromptu vote. I stuck to the 7- and 8-year-old range my son had been in when he made his Gore observation. Norfolk has a diverse racial base, and while it is a military town, it is also a university village and a city that votes blue in a red state.

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