Politics & Government

Key to a candidate's soul might be in the ignition

At least three of the presidential candidates drive Ford hybrids.
At least three of the presidential candidates drive Ford hybrids.

MANCHESTER, N.H. — It makes so much sense for Mitt Romney to drive a '62 Rambler.

It was the ultimate second car of baby-boomer suburban families in that era. It was the car that his father, the former chairman of Rambler-maker American Motors, made famous. And it seemed like just the right gift for the presidential candidate's 60th birthday when Romney's sons got him the black convertible back in March.

"I came home from church and my sons handed me a key," he recalled. "I went out in the driveway and there was a 1962 Rambler. I started the car up," Romney said, "drive it back and forth, and then pushed it back home."

There's a broader lesson here: If you want to know what a presidential candidate is really like, you might want to ask him about his wheels.

Delaware Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. still has the 1967 Corvette that his father gave him as a wedding gift when Biden married his first wife, Neilia. She died in an automobile crash in 1972.

Underdog Dennis Kucinich gets around in a Ford Focus compact. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, the only Democratic presidential contender from the West, has a Jeep Wrangler.

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, who's been trying to get folks to notice his comprehensive energy strategy, has a Ford Escape hybrid — though spokeswoman Colleen Flanagan proudly notes that "Sen. Dodd is so attuned to his personal environmental impact that he walks his daughter to school each day."

Dodd's 6-year-old daughter attends school on Capitol Hill, about a block from her parents' house.

Then there are the candidates who don't usually drive. New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton uses Secret Service vehicles for security reasons, while former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani told the Associated Press earlier this year, "I don't drive. I navigate."

Of course, not everyone can have the car of his dreams — after all, poor fuel consumption habits don't make good politics.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama learned that lesson earlier this year, after telling the Detroit Economic Club in May how "we are held hostage to the spot oil market — forced to watch our fortunes rise and fall with the changing price of every barrel."

At the time, Obama had a big V-8 Chrysler 300 — not known for its efficiency — but a month after the Detroit appearance he replaced it with a Ford Escape hybrid.

Chances are Romney's Rambler is a bottomless pit for gasoline too, not to mention that it fails to meet an awful lot of modern-day safety standards.

"The steering wheel's huge," he says. "I went to put my arm on the arm rest, but there wasn't any. There are no seat belts."

So while the Rambler stays in New Hampshire, strictly for fun, Romney's usually rambling around the campaign trail in something more modern and politically correct. Like a Ford Escape hybrid.