By Samantha Hayes in Washington, D.C.
After several weeks on the campaign trail covering the presidential nominating contests, I've noticed a pattern among voters.
And it's not confined to a geographic region, age, race, or gender.
Indecision. Voters aren't quite sure which candidate to support. They have told me they want a candidate who can bring change, has experience, and seems genuine. A man or woman who will lead the country in the "right" direction. Often times they have narrowed it down to two. Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. John McCain or Mike Huckabee. One man in Manchester, New Hampshire was even deciding whether to vote for a Democrat or Republican in his state's primary. You can do that in New Hampshire and a few other states. Over the weekend in South Carolina, a woman jokingly told me she might vote for John Edwards because "he's so handsome."
All jokes aside, there maybe something to that. Or at least that intangible "likeable" quality.
The candidates are certainly aware of it. The night after Monday's heated debate among the three leading Democratic candidates, John Edwards appeared on "The Late Show with David Letterman." Regarding the debate, Edwards joked, "What I was trying to do was represent the grown-up wing of the Democratic party." But then came a moment between host and guest that looked downright boyish. etterman leaned in, examining Edwards' hair and asked, "Has it ever been messed up?" While the audience laughed, the two pretended to mess up each other's 'do.
Score one in Edwards' column for "likeable," or at least a cute moment. It's the sort of thing the campaigns of presidential candidates hope will influence the emotional side of voters. That part of their brain that says "I want to vote for this candidate." And the talk show format seems to be a favorite forum.
Hillary Clinton's recent interview on the syndicated "Tyra Banks Show" made headlines when Clinton spoke personally about her husband's affair. "You are mad, you are really upset, you are disappointed - all of that goes through your mind...I have found you really shouldn't make decisions in the heat of those moments." Clinton has also appeared on Letterman.
On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, which he ultimately won, Republican Mike Huckabee was a guest on "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno. He played the bass. And he let voters know he's on their side.
"People are looking for a presidential candidate who reminds them more of the guy they work with rather than the guy that laid them off. I think that's part of what's going on right now," the former Arkansas governor said.
What's gone on since then is that the race for the Democratic and Republican nominations is up in the air.
Two important contests coming up could better define who the front-runners in each party might be. The Democratic primary in South Carolina Saturday, and the Republican primary in Florida three days after that.
When voters go to the polls, will it be change they want? A candidate with experience in Washington, or a newcomer? Or will it get down to who is having a good hair day? Let's hope it's not the latter.