- The Washington Times - Friday, July 20, 2007

It’s motherhood and apple pie that preoccupy the 2008 presidential hopefuls. They spice up their official outreach efforts with feel-good references to “children” and “America” while completely avoiding references to “God” and “religion,” a study says.

“The two most dominant references were the nation and family,” the study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, a division of the Pew Research Center, said. “The words ‘U.S.,’ ‘America’ and ‘American’ appeared 171 different times in the 19 biographical sketches. These patriotic terms are even more popular among Democratic candidates.”

The words “children” and “family” are the next most popular, appearing 124 times.

“Together, these mom and apple pie terms outpace ‘Iraq,’ ‘health care’ or anything else,” the study said, suggesting that campaign strategists had a heavy hand in the selection of the words.

Certain words were verboten, according to the report, which analyzed image promotion, word use and marketing employed online by both Republican and Democratic candidates on May 8 and again on June 12.

“ ’God’ and ‘religion’ were not mentioned at all. Neither was the word ‘moral.’ A key word ‘ethics’ is largely absent as well,” the study noted.

It could indicate that both parties are cautious about using faith as a campaign tool.

“A president has to be a preacher of sorts, instructing, consoling, summoning citizens to sacrifice for some common good. But candidates are competitors, which means they seldom manage to talk about faith in a way that doesn’t disturb people, doesn’t divide them, doesn’t nail campaign posters on the gates of heaven,” Time magazine said recently. “Republicans have been charged with exploiting religious voters, Democrats with ignoring them.”

Also absent are ideological identifiers, such as “liberal” or “progressive,” though “conservative” is mentioned eight times in Republican biographies.

The study detected a partisan divide. The most-used buzzwords among Democrats are “children,” followed by “family,” “America,” “American” and “senator.”

“Democrats are keen to stress their identity as patriots,” the study said.

Among Republicans, the most popular words are “U.S.,” “governor,” “Republican,” “taxes” and “leadership.” Although the group as a whole talks up patriotism and values, “Republicans draw attention to their party label repeatedly.”

There are personal leanings as well. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, makes 28 references to children in her campaign biography, more than any other candidate. “Bill Clinton,” however, appears only once. Republican candidates Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado and former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Guiliani don’t mention children at all in their campaign biographies.

Though the election is not until next year, the candidates already are under a microscope. Nielsen Media Research tallied their radio, television and online ads along with their blog postings and number of Web site visitors.

Details can get excruciating. Among Democrats, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois has 508 persons on his payroll, while Mrs. Clinton has campaign offices in 30 cities, the New York Times reported yesterday. The paper revealed that among Republicans, Mr. Guiliani had the most golf-related expenses ($74,603) while Sen. John McCain of Arizona paid the most rent ($749,198).