Forget wanting to have a beer with the prez, a recent ABC News poll found that quite a few people  would rather have the Commander-In-Chief hold their hair while they puke from some undercooked shellfish.

From ABC News:

The American public may be divided on “Obamacare,” but when faced with choosing a candidate to care for them if illness struck, President Obama is their man. By a 13 point margin — 49-36 percent — registered voters polled by ABC News chose the president over Mitt Romney to nurse them back to health.

When asked who they thought “would make a more loyal friend,”  the results were about the same. By a 50-36 percent count, respondents said Obama was more likely to stick with them through trying times.

It was a weird poll, asking who people would rather depend on in a crisis, who they thought would stand by them, nurse them back to health – everything but tell them that they’re pretty –  in a hyper-personal survey that had just enough creep factor to make the frivolous beer test sound sensible.

Partying is one thing. Bringing over the Chunky Monkey while you mourn the death of your relationship with the doctoral candidate of your dreams is something else altogether. I’m not saying that I don’t want to be besties with Barack and Michelle. Anyone who followed my Michelle Obama coverage back in 2008 knows my desire for her to give me weight-lifting tips is real. Heck, if they’re just looking for someone to pitch them jokes for various speeches, I’d be happy to free up some time on my joke writing schedule to hang out in the West Wing, throwing in some free Algebra tutoring to the Obama daughters.

But this kind of polling is a bit of modern convention. It’s not that past presidents didn’t pitch themselves as your buddy. After all, saying “I like Ike” is at its most basic level an affirmation that you think then general, soon-to-be President Eisenhower was pretty keen — but, while all Ike needed was to be a decorated war hero and respected mind, he didn’t need to fret about the number of inches in his waistband or if his hair was Just for Men “Touch of Gray” presidential or a balding flop.

Politics has become a shallow business, and it’s been fascinating to watch men (and women) be marketed to voters in the same way Pepsi floats out new drink ideas. Potential veep Paul Ryan was rolled out with more branding than Coke Zero. Ignore his voting record, but look at those abs! Ryan budget? Fudge-it! He dated a black girl once! He’s like the GOP Robin Thicke … if Robin Thicke broke up with Paula Patton after high school and never spoke to her again.

Even Romney – who looks like a president out of Hollywood’s central casting – is being marketed to us. Albeit poorly. For every “love the wife,” “love the kids” moment he flip-flops on whether or not he’ll keep or fight to repeal health care reform.

But Obama is really the perfect storm of what is expected out of modern TV presidential candidates – excellent public speaker, tall, way better-than-average looks for a politico. I’m convinced the only reason he isn’t as fastidiously styled as his wife is because of the amount of hate that would rain down on the prez if he ditched the dad jeans for a fitted and slim suit. After all, he supposed to look like a president. Not Usher Raymond.

Even though more and more looking like a “president”  means looking ready for primetime.

Historians often blame this emphasis on a candidate’s looks and be-your-BFF ideal on the influence television has had as a medium, pointing back to the first televised presidential debate between the youthful John F. Kennedy and the less “Camelot” looking then vice president Richard Nixon. It didn’t matter that those who heard the debate on the radio thought “Tricky Dick” won it. Kennedy looked good, better than Nixon, on TV. And, eventually, that’s all that mattered.

But that’s started to concern me. Some of our best leaders, legislators, champions, and activists haven’t been traditionally pretty boy swagged up. Many don’t have the best TV ready skills. If you can’t hear the message over Lincoln’s bony tall frame, protruding mole and beard; If you can’t focus on Bill Clinton’s borderline evil genius over the belly rolls he was rocking the 90s; if you’re more worried about his wife Hillary Clinton’s pants suits and scrunchie ponytail and sometimes practiced seeming warmth over her diplomacy efforts as secretary of state, are we losing out on future politicians who would be good for us and make incredible differences but fail at having that “Maybe she’s born with it? Maybe it’s Maybelline Look?”

President Barack Obama has so many wonderful attributes. His intellect. His drive. His diplomatic nature. His resolve. But do we cheapen it when we are more worried about whether we want him to be our friend versus our leader? Does that make it harder for the next man or woman who, for what they lack in looks and social graces, they more than make up in ideas, intelligence, leadership, and courage?

Are we building better candidates, or marketing?


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