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The next president? Ask a kid.

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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.

The votes are in, along with some of my favorite sound bites:

Sen. John McCain: Eight votes. "He looks really real, like his hair's white. His face and smile doesn't look too perfect and fake," said a girl, age 7. Another boy, age 9, gave his vote to Senator McCain because, "He looks really tough. I bet he's scary when he's mad." (This standard didn't apply for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.)

Sen. Barack Obama: Six votes. Said one boy, age 8: "He looks really happy and if the president is happy the people will be happy." Another boy, 9, said, "He's tall so everybody will listen to him." One little girl, 6 years old, said, "I don't know. I need to see him look at me more."

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!"

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.

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