I have a family member who goes to the same hair stylist as Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman just named as Mitt Romney’s running mate.
It may not sway her vote one way or the other, but the Republican Ryan has a great head of hair — all dark and thick to go with those blue eyes and square jaw. He looks likes some of my Irish relatives on my father’s side.
My late grandmother, Rose O’Connor, would have taken an instant liking to him. Not because of his controversial plan for cutting Social Security benefits or raising the retirement age, but because he’s an Irish-American.
The same reason she liked Democratic President John Kennedy and almost anybody else whose ancestors came from the Old Sod.
Why we vote for the people we do is still a bit of a mystery.
We’d like to think it has to do with the policies they preach, the promises they make and our perception of what impact they’ll have on the economy.
But there’s an undeniable “likeability” factor that plays a role, too.
Charm by itself isn’t enough. I spent an afternoon recently with Rupert Boneham, the Libertarian candidate for Indiana governor who is better known as the scraggly bearded, wild-haired, tie-dyed castaway from the reality TV series “Survivor.” He’s likeable: In 2004, he won $1 million when “Survivor” fans overwhelmingly picked him as their favorite.
I saw Boneham work an Indiana State Fair crowd. He dispensed more handshakes and hugs than any candidate I’d ever seen. He’s immensely personable.
I saw fair-goers, who after meeting him, peeled off from their shirts the stickers from the other candidates’ campaigns and replaced them with “Rupert for Governor” stickers.
There’s a big jump, of course, from a sticker on your shirt to a ballot cast.
Still, the likeability factor in politics is undeniable and it has to do with the feeling of connection: Does that candidate have any idea of what it’s like to be me?
Paul Ryan’s running mate is struggling with that connection. A Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times poll recently surveyed voters in three critical swing states. According to the poll, those most likely to vote in all three states viewed President Obama as more caring about their needs and problems than billionaire businessman Mitt Romney.
The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, showed the same kind of thing. Despite his dismal economic numbers and poor approval ratings for his economic policies, Obama’s likeability numbers gives him an edge over Romney. In oversimple terms, more people could see themselves having a beer with Obama than with Romney.
But not too many more. The Pew survey found Obama’s personal favorability ratings are at 50 percent, compared with his 45 percent unfavorable ratings. Obama’s personal favorability ratings are lower than most presidential candidates in recent elections.
Likeability is a quirky thing. It will be interesting to see how Ryan plays into the mix. He’s been divisive as a Tea Party darling with a disdain for compromise. But according to national reports that followed the announcement of his candidacy, even his political opponents say he’s likeable.
And he has a great head of hair.
Maureen Hayden is the Indiana Statehouse bureau chief for CNHI, the parent company of the Tribune-Star. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- News Columns
MAX JONES: Newspapers can be fun, too; check out Readers’ Choice
Smart and savvy newspaper readers (that’s all of you, of course) know full well that their daily consumption of news and information isn’t an exclusively high-brow pursuit.
MAUREEN HAYDEN: Lugar’s Legacy
In October 2012, at a dinner with friends, I found myself sitting next to a woman who’d grown up in Russia.
MAUREEN HAYDEN: AG goes after his own kind
Supporters of same-sex marriage hailed Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring when he announced that he wouldn’t defend his state’s prohibition against gay marriage.
THE OFF SEASON: So what does kindness look like?
There is an argument going on near my window sill. As I sit down to clack away at what will be a story about kindness, a squirrel and four blue jays bicker over a pile of birdseed I have left as charity.
I am not sure who will win out, but my money is on the jays, if anything, for their persistence and general orneriness.
MAUREEN HAYDEN: Offshore tax havens undermine state
Gov. Mike Pence has spent months pushing the idea of repealing the tax on business equipment that provides $1 billion a year to schools, libraries and local governments.
MARK BENNETT: Illinois officials content their state has its business advantages, too
Most people count the Wabash River as an economic asset for Terre Haute. Of course, economic development officials in the Land of Lincoln beg to differ.
MIKE LUNSFORD: ‘To sleep, perchance to dream’
I’ve been thankful this winter for a full propane tank and ample cold cranking amps and school snow-delay days that have kept me off the roads until the sun is up on the most frigid of these mornings.
MAUREEN HAYDEN: Overshadowed bills address veterans, guns, ‘Do Not Call’, TANF drug tests
If you’ve ever blown past a school bus with its bright red “Stop” arm extended, convinced you wouldn’t get caught breaking the law because no police were around, you might think twice about trying it again.
MAUREEN HAYDEN: Law hits poverty-stricken schools hard
Chuck Brimbury is no-excuses kind of guy.
MARK BENNETT: Indiana should revisit its time-zone classification
Mister Spock would look at the situation in Indiana and, in that dispassionate “Star Trek” voice, utter a firm conclusion.
“That is illogical,” he’d say.
MIKE LUNSFORD: The night the snow fell
You would think that the cold winds and deep snows that we endured two weeks ago would be old news by now, but as I stood in the checkout line at a grocery store just a few days back, a gallon of milk in one hand and a quart of orange juice in the other, a customer just ahead of me appeared to be stocking up to make a run for the Donner Pass, and all she could talk about was the storm.
MAX JONES: Digging for wisdom in Larrison’s lament
Ferocious winter storms have been a rarity in west-central Indiana in recent decades, even though heavy snow or sub-zero stretches of days drop in occasionally to remind us how miserable they can make us.
MAUREEN HAYDEN: Plenty of ‘emptiness’ to go around at start of 2014 session
Last Tuesday’s cold start to the 2014 legislative session was warmed by the standing ovation given to House Minority Leader Scott Pelath following his traditional opening day remarks.
MAUREEN HAYDEN: Conservative fight against constitutional amendment
Megan Robertson grew up in a Democratic family in a heavily Democratic area known as “the region” for its proximity to Chicago.
MARK BENNETT: Album turns memories into musical Christmas message for Terre Haute’s Dave Frey, band
In a way, Dave Frey walked in the footsteps of Charles Schulz.
Both men worked hard to let Linus Van Pelt explain the “true meaning of Christmas.”
MARK BENNETT: ‘Longest Night Service’ a time to reflect, remember
Holiday images rarely depict hurt or struggle.
MAUREEN HAYDEN: Meth labs so prevalent, test kits on market for homebuyers
Donetta Held knows how strange the world of methamphetamine is.
MIKE LUNSFORD: ‘The mind is a dark forest’
If you hadn’t noticed by reading this newspaper or hearing me crow about it myself, I have another collection of stories out in print.
MAUREEN HAYDEN: Hoosiers’ priorities vs. legislators’ agenda
Every year at about this time, Statehouse reporters like me ask lawmakers what their priorities will be for the coming year.
MARRIAGE EQUALITY: Cheneys’ feud hits Indiana
Oh, it’s on.
If there was any doubt that the coming fight over the same-sex marriage ban amendment in Indiana was going to be elevated to the national level, it’s gone.
Chamber: Repeal ‘smoker’s bill of rights’
When Indiana lawmakers return for the 2014 session in early January, they’ll step into the highly charged issue of marriage equality as they debate the proposed amendment that would lock into the state constitution a ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions.
MIKE LUNSFORD: Inching on toward a cold winter?
I’m not ready for snow and ice and the daggers of a north wind, but I have finally accepted the fact that winter is nearly here.
MARK BENNETT: Words, and what they mean, is what we remember
I remember scanning the granite wall at the grave of President John F. Kennedy in Arlington National Cemetery, looking for those words.
Citizens fight for school funds
Never underestimate the power of high school band parents.
MARK BENNETT: Tommy John getting another shot at Baseball Hall of Fame
Go ahead, circle Dec. 9 on your calendar.
Pence eyes reducing infant mortality as key legislative goal for administration
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence opened the state’s Infant Mortality Summit last week by sharing a personal story: He and his wife had struggled with infertility issues early in their marriage, so the eventual arrival of their three children was met with deep gratitude and appreciation.
Filling our void: Terre Haute artist Bill Wolfe poured his heart and soul into the project of a lifetime
Bill Wolfe thumbed through a series of photographs documenting his sculpture of basketball legend Larry Bird.
MIKE LUNSFORD: Pumpkins: Good for the fork and the (carving) knife
My wife and I are fairly frugal; we are budgeters and planners. In the fall, we set aside what we’ll need to heat the house and pay the doctor and buy sensible shoes for school. I think we’re going to have to open an account for pumpkins, too.
MAX JONES: Fight for public access among Dave Cox’s legacies
A group of Indiana newspaper editors who advise the Hoosier State Press Association on issues related to access to public records and meetings had the opportunity to meet new Public Access Counselor Luke Britt last week.
MARK BENNETT: Indiana’s Donnelly part of ‘The Middle’ that got deal done
Hanging out in the middle isn’t cool.
Its occupants don’t attract a captivated circle of listeners at parties, their comments don’t inspire hell-yeahs on Facebook, and they don’t pretend to always be right.
- More News Columns Headlines
- MAX JONES: Newspapers can be fun, too; check out Readers’ Choice