One of the most notable features of the 2008 presidential race is the amount of attention being lavished on the spouses of the candidates. Just today we have a New York Times interview in which Judith Giuliani responds to a scathing Vanity Fair profile of her and pieces in the Washington Post and Newsweek looking at the role of Fred Thompson’s wife Jeri (pictured) in his campaign.
You can come up with lots of reasons for all this interest in the other halves of the candidates. Obviously, there’s the Bill factor with the fascination with him and the Clinton marriage spilling over onto the other candidates and their wives. There’s the fact that the spouses this time out are a pretty interesting bunch who are taking on high-profile campaign roles. While on the Republican side, reporters want to know how Giuliani, Thompson and, to a lesser extent, John McCain are going to square their colourful personal lives with socially conservative voters in the Republican primary. You can also add to this mix the way in which blogs have made political coverage less formal—would the New York Times have run a piece asking ‘Is America ready for a president with a trophy wife?’ seven years ago?
Yet, none of these reasons quite cut it. Instead, it might have something more to do with the fact that America is in a funk, as Chuck Todd argued a few weeks back. Trust in politicians is low after Iraq and all the corruption and sleaze scandals, American sports are in a mess and even religious figures have been getting in trouble.
America is looking for something to make it feel good about itself again and turn-around the fact that about three-quarters of folk think things are heading in the wrong direction. Maybe, one way to do that is to put a first couple people can relate to and feel good about in the White House.