Polls take toll
on electoral soul

By John Breneman

The polls are rich with meaning in our beloved American democracy.
They are the places where those of us not afflicted with degenerative voter apathy gather to cast our ballots.

They are also the surveys we conduct to find out who's winning before we head to the aforementioned polls to cast our ballots.

But I did not realize, until I consulted the dictionary, that another meaning of the word poll is this: "the head, esp. the crown or top of the head."
Therefore, it seems to me, the most basic purpose of all these "polls" is to get inside people's "polls" before we go to the "polls."

During election season, we are constantly barraged by "the media" (don't get me started on them, I mean us) with statements like "Joe W. Blow is ahead in the polls" or "Humpty W. Dumpty is hoping for a strong showing in the upcoming Humor Gazette straw poll."

The resulting blizzard of stats and percentages is supposed to be a "barometer" of public opinion. It also gives the pundits more stuff on which to pundificate.

These behind-the-scenes pollsters supposedly bolster our understanding of each race by identifying the "front-runners" and also exposing the sure losers who are "floundering in single digits."

And so, without further spin, I am pleased to reveal the results of my latest Humor Gazette political poll. These numbers will no doubt be read with great interest by Washington insiders and devoured with baloney and mayo by Joe W. Lunchbucket.

But first a word about my methodology. I have eschewed chewing the fat with focus groups and no telephone poles were mistreated in the making of this poll.

To save time and minimize the nuisance factor, I simply polled various sectors of my imagination to gain deep statistical insight into the upcoming New Hampshire primary and the state of electoral politics here in the year 2000.

The following poll is unscientific, undemocratic and unapologetic. And, as always, my poll results have a margin of error of plus or minus 142 percent.

-- 92 percent of all McCain supporters wish the war-hardened Arizona senator would have pistol-whipped each of his opponents in the recent University of New Hampshire debate.

-- A significant majority of registered Republican voters believe Orrin Hatch would have a 96 percent better chance of being elected president if his name was George W. Bush.

-- A similar majority believe George W. Bush would be a charismatic home heating oil salesman if his name was Orrin W. Hatch.

-- 81 percent of all poll respondents think Republican candidate Gary Bauer bears a closer resemblance to the mannequin Howdy W. Doody than any living human.

-- 84 percent of all sane voters agreed that Republican candidate Alan Keyes has been endowed by his Creator with certain inalienable righteousness that they find "scarier than Hell."

-- 62 percent of Granite State venture capitalists said Steve Forbes would gain ground in the polls if he shaved his head and named Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura as his running mate.

-- 49 percent of all Gore supporters say they oppose targeting negative ads at "that arrogant weasel" Bill Bradley.

-- 51 percent of all Bradley supporters are calling for the Democratic primary to be settled by a one-on-one, winner-take-all basketball game at Portsmouth High School.

Additional poll results:
-- 3 percent of all Granite State voters are titillated by the candidacy of Thump Party nominee Chris Elliott (see www.thumpcity.com).

-- 47 percent of all Seacoast-area Democrats believe the Republican Party is nothing more than a front for a Colombian soft money cartel.

-- 12 percent of all Seacoast-area Republican voters are concerned that George W. Bush's $67 million campaign warchest was severely depleted by his appearance at Yoken's restaurant on Thursday.

-- 94 percent of all registered Christians believe Jesus should be allowed limited access to the White House.

-- 56 percent of all Iowa cheese farmers believe Elian Gonzalez should be wrapped in the Confederate flag and sent back to South Carolina.

In conclusion, as fresh poll numbers are pounded into our heads each day, I am reminded of another meaning of the word "poll." That is, "the blunt or flat end of a hammer."

Thank you for participating in my little poll. Let's do this again real soon.


'Fuzzy math' to decide election

By John Breneman

Having invented the electoral college when he was a student at Harvard, Vice President Al Gore says he is confident he will win the dramatic Florida recount that will decide the 2000 presidential race. However, Republican Gov. George W. Bush says he, too, is certain that he will prevail, thus giving him enough "electrical votes" to become the next president of the United States.

Meanwhile, Florida officials are investigating the claims of 19,000 voters who say they meant to cast their ballots for Gore, but accidentally wrote in the name of Reform Party leader Slobodan Milosevic. Amid the controversy, Bush accused Gore of perpetrating "fuzzy math" regarding the election results, while Gore countered that Bush has been utilizing "fuzzy English" to confuse the voters.

See FUZZY, next page

Nation plagued by electoral college dysfunction

By John Breneman

Electoral college dysfunction got you down? Well cheer up, old chum. Studies show that 5 out of every 10 Americans currently suffer from electoral college dysfunction (ECD). Symptoms include mind-numbing confusion about who the next president will be, heightened sensitivity to extreme political rhetoric and - common among older ECD sufferers - paralyzing fear about the future of Social Security.

In more serious cases, patients may experience media-induced projectile nausea, an unsightly facial condition called dimpled chads, and a gnawing concern that the supreme being may be backing the other side.

HMOs are stymied about how to treat this rare election-year malady and are not willing to extend coverage to an amber-colored medication that has shown efficacy against the debilitating psychological trauma of ECD. Fortunately, both presidential candidates are doing everything in their power to ease the suffering of the American people.

George W. Bush said he has been learning all about the "erectile college" from 1996 Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole. The Texas governor is also assembling a "translation team" to help him understand what is going on.

Vice President Al Gore conceded that the nation is sick and tired of all the political and legal wrangling, but said he is determined to ensure that the "will of the people" is litigated into conforming with his vision.

Meanwhile, doctors struggling to find effective treatment for ECD claim that the media is not helping matters with its sensationalistic approach to the news coverage. For example, the dramatic aerial footage of a ballot-laden Ryder truck leading a convoy up the Ronald Reagan Turnpike reportedly caused widespread fear that O.J. Simpson had somehow become involved.

Appearing live on the Jerry Springer show, Simpson denied any involvement, then demonstrated how voters can make their intentions clear by using a large knife to stab the proper holes in their ballots.
Relief may soon be in sight though, with the Supreme Court expected to rule soon on the defining constitutional question: How the hell did this happen?

Hopefully, the justices will act expeditiously because widespread ECD reportedly has given rise to a host of related illnesses, including cerebral lockbox, inaugural dystrophy and Voter Intention Deficit Disorder.


GOP gets down
and dirty in Dixie

By John Breneman

The gloves came off this week in South Carolina, where the race between George W. Bush and John McCain devolved into a bare-knuckle feud.
I had to write this before yesterday's vote so I don't know who won, but it sure was a hectic week for our GOP combatants.

Following the ruckus in Tuesday night's debate over who delivered the first low blow, new evidence emerged to indicate that both camps engaged in decidedly negative campaign tactics. Though McCain had pledged to take the high road, Bush issued a harsh statement accusing McCain of running a television attack ad comparing the Texas governor's trustworthiness with that of former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.

McCain said he knew nothing about the ad, titled Dada, and challenged Bush to explain a campaign flier in which someone had drawn a goatee and devil horns onto a picture of McCain, along with a word balloon to make it appear the Arizona senator was saying, "I like Satan."

Sparks really began to fly a little before noon Wednesday when the two crossed paths at a coffee shop in Boiling Springs, a town of 3,500 just northwest of Spartanburg. Bush called on McCain to tell voters why he had so blatantly reneged on his vow not to run negative ads.

"What I actually said, George, was I won't run NO negative ads." McCain claimed he deliberately used the double negative in his campaign pledge to reserve the option of running negative ads if he felt he needed to.

McCain then rebutted a comment attributed to a Bush adviser, who reportedly likened McCain's campaign finance reform plan to a 20-pound sack of dung.

Bush countered that the dung statement was pay back for an erroneous charge from the McCain camp that Bush planned to disembowel Social Security and spend billions of budget surplus dollars to refurbish the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Meanwhile, fellow Republican candidate Alan Keyes unveiled a new television ad depicting a pair of cowboy hat-wearing cartoon characters named Gov. George W. Hatfield and Sen. John McCoy. While the bumbling gunslingers howl and shoot each other in the feet, Keyes voices the narrative:

"Is this pointless squabbling really what we want the American people to see? We are talking about electing the president of the United States."
Keyes then launches into an intimidating tirade about his stance on abortion and morality, pausing every several seconds to say, "Let me finish."

A spokesman for the Bush campaign called the ad demeaning, while a McCain adviser called it not positive.

Returning to the issues of the day at the Boiling Springs diner, McCain demanded Bush explain why an elderly woman reported receiving a phone call from someone claiming John McCain might sneak into her house later that night and steal her money. Bush shrugged his shoulders and grinned.

After the two traded jabs over who would do what if their daughter was raped by an interracial Democratic crack addict, McCain charged that Bush had accepted an honorary degree in social intolerance from Bob Jones University.

Bush reached into his wallet and flashed a picture of his brother's Mexican wife as proof he is sensitive to racial and ethnic issues. Then, as an aide whispered in his ear, Bush broke into a wide smile.

"Well, Mr. Chairman -- or should I say Massah Chairman? -- perhaps you can explain why your great-great-granddaddy owned slaves back during the Civil War." McCain just grimaced and said he'd killed more people in the name of freedom than Gov. Bush had.

Momentarily at a loss for words, Bush urged the locals crowded into the coffee shop to take a real close look at McCain's neck, suggesting that it is rubbery in both appearance and texture. Do the American people really want a man with such a rubbery dang neck in the White House? I don't think so.

When Bush turned away for a moment to consult with advisers about his next quip, he was abruptly hit in the back of the neck by a gooey fudge brownie. Bush glared at McCain, who offered Bush a Confederate flag napkin and said he was certain the brownie was not paid for by the McCain 2000 committee.


Cowboy boot issue shouldn't hurt Gore

By John Breneman

I'm no expert on Al Gore's strategy for providing universal health care, but I do know that he disrupted my recovery from the flu when he passed through town this week.

I had planned to take Tuesday afternoon off and just lapse into viral-induced dreamland. That was before I learned that the vice president would be visiting not only our fair city, but our fair newsroom as well. So it was time to "suck it up" as they say in the rough-and-tumble world of professional journalism.

I had to be there, because I play a key role in the political process here in our First-in-the-Nation-Primary state. You see, there is no shortage of people to report on presidential platforms and policies. But who else will provide you with first-hand coverage of the way Gore's ears tend to rise slightly with certain facial expressions?

Who else will dispel the "Al Gore is a complete stiff misconception by describing the way he tipped back in his chair while talking about "an economic policy that unlocks the potential of our people"?

But one cannot give the true flavor of the Al Gore experience without describing what happens before the vice presidential motorcade arrives.
Al was scheduled to arrive here at 3 p.m. Tuesday for an intimate chat with our editorial board. Fortunately, the vice presidential procession was running late so I had a little time to observe the crew of Secret Service agents in action as they conducted an elaborate "sweep" of our building.

There were agents of all shapes and sizes, each of course with a telltale wire extending from their ear down into their clothing. The bomb-sniffing dogs were two of the most beautiful animals I have seen, especially the black one (they wouldn't divulge his name, so I shall call him "Blacky").

Blacky's partner led him through each room and every time the agent pointed to a spot Blacky would sniff it, I assume to see if there was a bomb or an Algerian terrorist hidden in some nook or cranny or filing cabinet.

The most impressive part was Blacky's reach. He is so large that when he stands on his hind legs he is capable of sniffing a spot seven or eight feet off the ground. I'll never forget Blacky.

Security was tight. And though none of us were physically frisked, I think I saw one of the Secret Service agents undressing me with his/her eyes.
Around 4:02 p.m., the 10 of us who would participate in the interview were instructed to file into our small conference room. An event at Somersworth High School had concluded and Al was on the way.

"They kicked me out of my office," said our publisher. "I wasn't going to argue with them." They also read some of our faxes and looked in our desk drawers, but I guess you can't be too careful nowadays.

As we sat in the conference room waiting, there was the usual joking around. We speculated on the contents of the two small yellow canvas satchels sitting in the corner, stamped with large black letters VRU. ("It detects something," said the publisher's assistant.)

The minutes ticked by, and one editor who shall remain nameless said, "I think the first question should be 'where the hell have you been'?"

But when Gore arrived moments later, he defused that line of questioning by politely apologizing for being late. We all introduced ourselves and shook the vice president's hand.

He won points with me right off the bat by failing to wear a tie, though for some reason I still tend to find cowboy boots a little hokey. Mr. Gore appeared quite relaxed in a plaid shirt open at the collar and khaki-style pants. When asked, he requested a cup of decaf.

See GORE, next page