To be sure, no president can get re-elected after tanking the economy. But I was predicting outcomes before I knew what the economy was.
It doesn't matter when it began, but I'll remind you anyway. Hair was a non-issue until the first televised debate between Kennedy and Nixon. Hats were on their way out as a fashion accessory for men, so hair was just coming to the forefront as a way to evaluate character. Debates had never been televised. It was a major turning point for our country, highlighted by the fact that those listening on the radio thought Nixon had won. Those watching on TV took one look at Kennedy's youthful locks and essentially stopped listening. Nixon's kinked, receding hairline, combined with the uncomfortable sweat on his upper lip, handed Kennedy the election. And you thought it was because Kennedy was a tax cutting anti communist.
Even in the year B.G. 5 (five years Before Ghostbusters--I was a wee, wee lad), I remember contrasting Carter and Reagan. Unaware of everything else about them, I knew that Reagan's looks instilled confidence. His sleek, black, sculpted, 50's era coif looked strong, almost bold, next to his opponent's wispy gray blah. Never mind the economic malaise, mine eyes saw the landslide coming. Now think of every election since.Reagan vs. Mondale? All too easy.
Bush the first vs. Dukakis? Almost a push, with the edge going to the guy who could be associated with Reagan's hair.
Bush vs. Clinton? Forget about it. Most of Bush's hair had grayed and fallen out by then. Blame it on the Iran/Contra cover up, or the breaking of his "no new taxes" pledge. The reasons don't matter. A comparatively great head of hair, skillfully made to look less gray than it was, easily put a pudgy womanizer in the White House.
Clinton vs. Dole? No contest.
Gore vs. Bush II? A close one. So close that the Supreme Court had to decide that Bush's salt and pepper cut looked just a little more natural than Gore's attempt to emulate Reagan sans pomade.
Bush vs. Kerry? Almost identical hair. Advantage to the incumbent.
Obama vs. McCain? See the pattern? McCain's whited Abraham Simpson silhouette was UNELECTABLE. The only reason it was even slightly close was Sarah Palin's truly gorgeous locks. Whatever else you might think of her, that woman has fabulous hair.
Which brings us to the republican primary. Watch as one candidate after another makes a surge here and a push there, trying to unseat Romney as the favorite. We try to pretend we can make this about ideas. If that were true, Ron Paul would have sealed up the nomination and Obama would have forfeited to him months ago and stepped down. But the elephant in the room, so to speak, is that Mitt has--let's face it--the most presidential hair EVER. Slight Reed Richards gray on the sides for wisdom, Old Hollywood shape with no indication of product over-use, his hair is so good that it makes you occasionally forget how desperately, painfully Caucasian he is.
Is it good enough to overcome the palpable disadvantage of being a white male? I don't know. Is it good enough to stand against the tide of some impossible, miraculous turn in this historically bad economy? Who am I to say? But know this: He might point out that he has functioned in the real world as opposed to an academic ivory tower. He might list the hundreds of innocent children killed by drone strikes. He might illustrate the rampant cronyism that has lined the pockets of the president's friends and contributors while the rest of us wallowed in the mire, or point out that our national debt has grown more in the last 3 years than in all previous years combined. He might even praise the president for going against everything he ever said and adhering strictly to Bush's insane war policies--INCLUDING GITMO. He'll most certainly go on about the threat of a nuclear Iran. But it will all be so much window dressing. As he stands on that debate stage, everything he says will be code for Check the Hair, people.
It'll be close. Obama has a sexy, if nondescript, head of hair. They'll tell you it's close because the country is divided, that both men are intelligent and articulate, and various other non sequiturs. We've been pretending there were important issues for years. But if History is any indicator, the follicles will have made the decision long in advance, and not even the senseless bigotry against his religion will derail the Romney campaign.
I'd bet my salon conditioner and styling products on it.