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Spent last night together with my 14 year old son and 11 year old daughter watching the Potomac Primary results trickle in . . . and, yes . . . we are a history geek family!

Some great conversation about the process and some interesting observations about why people vote for certain candidates. We went back and talked about an article I had come across in a recent issue of Newsweek titled “When it’s Head Versus Heart, the Heart Wins.”

The author, Sharon Begley, cites several pieces of research that suggest that most Americans think they know why they’re voting for a particular person but that those reasons are probably not correct.

“It is a core tenet of political psychology that voters know nothing. Or next to nothing. Or next to nothing about what civics classes (forgive the anachronism) told us really matters. In 1992, the one fact that almost every voter knew about George H. W. Bush, besides that he was the incumbent president, was that he loathed broccoli. A close second was the name of the Bushes’ springer spaniel, Millie, which 86 percent of likely voters said they knew. But when it came to the positions of Bush and his opponent, Bill Clinton, on important issues, voters were, shall we say, a tad underinformed. Just 15 percent, for instance, knew that both candidates supported the death penalty.”

We pick candidates for a lot of reasons but Begley says that that those reasons are often “gut reactions” rather than reasoned arguments. So my kids and I tried to figure out what peoples’ gut reactions are to the various candidates. Not sure if we actually settled anything but it was great fun talking about it!

We did decide that Obama and Huckabee are doing as well as they are because they seem “more friendlier” than the others. My daughter described Huckabee as “a lot like Grandpa.” Talk about your endorsements! Can you say . . . bumper sticker? My son decided that Obama is “not faking it . . . he seems like he really cares.”

During the conversation, ran across a couple of interesting tools that might be helpful. CNN has a great fantasy politics game (that I’ll need to try now that football is over) called Political Market. And the Cable in the Classroom people have put together a pretty neat middle school activity called eLection. It focuses on the primary process and how candidates are selected.

Let me know your gut reaction!