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It's July, and John McCain, Barack Obama seek to be seen as regular folks

July 8, 2008 |  3:24 am

OK, now that you've finished poring over the dueling economic plans of John McCain and Barack Obama and how the funding for the freshman senator's package may not equal the costs.

And gone to each of their websites to study the proposals even more thoroughly and learned how Obama is gonna open up next month's Democratic National Convention to 76,000 of his closest friends in a football stadium because that's more personable.

Barack and Michelle Obama

You have done that, haven't you? Because every concerned voter says they want more information on the candidates, at least until they get it. And then maybe it's a little too deep for summer reading.

This is July, after all. A perfect time for lighter fare when the two major candidates, under the direction of their professionally plotting campaign staffs, try to slip in some more easily digestible personal info on themselves and their families. And if voters come to Labor Day finding a candidate a tad more likable, well, the campaigns will just have to live with that.

It's a very interesting competition this time, the likability contest. Because each candidate has the mirror problem of the....

...other. Obama is so new and not well-known, as he has publicly worried several times in recent days that he's got to fill in the blank spaces with positive details before some others occupy the vacuum.

And for McCain, well, he's been around a very long time, enough to make some unfriends and to have a reputation for a temper and to seem like, well, he's been around a very long time. So he's got to replace some old impressions with fresher, more pleasant ones. Or try.

So here they both go with the summertime human trivia: 

No doubt you've memorized The Ticket item from last evening and set your TiVo to save "Hollywood Access" tonight because one of their airhead hostesses got all the way up to lovely Butte, Mont., home of likely the largest Superfund hole on the planet.

And there she caught up with the Obamas who, you may remember, were not going to use their lovely little daughters, Malia and Sasha, and expose them to the harsh life of a political campaign.

Well, except for the Iowa State Fair rides for the cameras last summer and the campaign's Christmas ad where they each had a speaking role and, now, for the "Access Hollywood" opportunity.

It's riveting television as we learn from the daughters the shocking news that for their daddy, shopping is not a social experience to prolong but one to buy a jacket in all three colors and go home.

And Michelle, who informed us last fall about her husband leaving underwear strewn around their home, tells the "Access" cameraman not to pan down to her husband's shoes, knowing full well he then must, because she finds them old and ugly. Wonderfully wifely.

Ah, but on Monday the McCains -- John and Cindy -- sought to create their own human moment with a prearranged, unplanned stop at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in downtown Denver. What's more American than chocolate? And a long-married couple stopping off for some sweets together?

McCain chatted with a veteran he encountered in the store before perusing the countless rows of yummies and suggesting, "How about some old-fashioned fudge?" (Can you hear the McCain communications people cringing over the term "old-fashioned"?)

So Cindy and John bought some fudge and a peanut butter cup and some cherry truffles, confident that the media would gobble up such news goodies.

And here we are, passing them on so everyone can see how human these would-be leaders of the free world want to be. Even though what they've been enduring for 18 months now and which one will do for four more is positively inhuman.

And then one of the conscientious college students working behind the candy counter asked the accompanying reporters if they needed any help. And McCain answered with a smile, "There's a lot of these people that need help, I guarantee you. But they won't find it here."

--Andrew Malcolm

Photo credit: Associated Press

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