I've wondered aloud here a few times what characteristics we really vote for. What traits move us to vote as we do? Michael Kinsley addresses this question with regard to Al Franken's run for the Senate:
This year a professional jokester, Al Franken (a Democrat), is challenging a professional politician, incumbent Norm Coleman (a Republican), for a Senate seat from Minnesota. Not every joke Franken wrote or told over a third of a century in the joke business was hilarious, OK? Minnesota voters will have to decide whether their dislike of professional politicians trumps their enjoyment in taking umbrage or vice versa. Coleman is a man of no interest, a run-of-the-mill political hypocrite who started out as a standard-issue long-haired student rebel leader on Long Island in the 1960s and surfed the zeitgeist: Now he is a standard-issue pro-war, tax-cut Republican. Franken, by contrast, needs no introduction and would be one of the most interesting people in the Senate from day one. Interesting isn't the most important quality in a senator. Honest, smart, and (for my taste) liberal are more important. But interesting would be nice.
Like any poll of people's dental habits, I suspect we say what we think is the right answer rather than the real answer when asked about our voting habits. Are we really voting on the issues, or did we - well, not me, but you know what I mean - vote for Bush because we knew people that we thought were like him? Someone nice enough who never made you feel stupid?