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Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014

From the speedway to the White House?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Can the perfect presidential candidate be found?

Maybe.

Political professionals may find Mr. or Ms. Predicted Perfect President among auto racers.

Consider:

*It often seems as if candidates are "talking in circles." Race drivers are used to going in circles.

*The typical candidate is full of hot air. So are some drivers -- not all -- immediately after races, getting out of the car and spewing product pitches for sparkplugscarsdrinksbeerautopartsandeverythingelse and the words just seem to run together while you wonder: What do they really want to say about the race? Politicians also have to quickly make a pitch for themselves and their party.

*A driver has to be a "good 'ol boy" (or girl) to please one fan group yet come across as big-city cool around other fans and sponsors. Politicians also have to become chameleons, doing a quick-change act depending on the demographics of their next awaiting crowd.

*Race drivers have to please and make personal appearances their sponsors. So do typical candidates. Think of their "sponsors" as the special interest groups to which they're beholden.

*Politicians are constantly surrounded by a full crew of campaign workers whose behind-the-scenes work, and sometimes very public action, keeps them going. A racer's pit crew does the same.

*The "crew chief" is the driver's right-hand man, talking them through races including when to pass and what's behind their back. A political advisor does the same for his/her candidate. Imagine the great political manipulator Karl Rove serving as a crew chief. He'd have his driver ramming his way through the pack.

*Race drivers obviously couldn't get where they're going, on the track or to the track, without help from large oil companies. Neither can candidates. Just ask President Bush.

*Candidates have to think on their feet, especially during debates and interviews. So do race drivers, thinking on and with their feet.

*And the late season "Chase for the Championship" resembles the final few weeks of a presidential race. A few leap to the front of the pack and battle like angry alligators.

*NASCAR is sort of a throwback to the past. The cars still use carburetors (as opposed to the fuel injections systems found on all new street cars since the 1980s) and just recently switched to unleaded gas. Likewise, some politicians appear to be slightly out of touch with today's world, especially after they're elected.

*NASCAR's cars -- especially the "Car of Tomorrow" making its debut this year -- only vaguely resemble the street cars whose name badges they carry. We often don't see the real politician behind the disguise.

*Politicians can get themselves in trouble if their message gets off track. A race driver who runs off the track is also in trouble -- big-time.

*Pre-race qualifying heats determine who makes the race's final field. Presidential primaries purge the election field as well.

At least one ex-driver who tried politics comes to mind. Richard Petty actually ran for secretary of state in North Carolina. Unfortunately for him, the voters quickly discovered he knew more about racing than state politics.

David Melson can be reached at dmelson@t-g.com.

David Melson
On the Loose