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Winning the pup-ular vote

First dogs affect White House image more than you'd think.

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It has happened already: Muttgate. Sen. John McCain has a dog; Sen. Barack Obama does not. The Associated Press and Yahoo found that pet owners favor Senator McCain over Senator Obama, with dog owners particularly in McCain's corner. Even cat owners went for McCain.

One pet owner said dog owning "tells you that they're responsible at least for something, for the care of something."

Presidential dogs have not only been prominent in politics, but in more than a few instances they've been image breakers and makers.

When Buddy, Bill Clinton's Lab was killed by a car in 2000, the nation mourned. The national empathy for that loss could have played a small part in easing leftover tension from White House scandals at the time.

Vice-presidential candidate Richard Nixon, hounded (couldn't resist) by allegations that rich backers were supporting his luxurious lifestyle, made "the Checkers speech" in which he emotionally defended accepting the gift of a cocker spaniel. "Regardless of what they say about it, we're gonna keep it," Mr. Nixon declared. And Mr. Nixon remained on the ticket.

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