Dear Presidential/VP candidates:

I know it's a bit late to suggest changes in your 15-month presidential campaign. But if you guys want to sway those 5 million still-undecideds, you might heed my extreme makeover suggestions - fast. When the chips are down, they'll vote for a likable, macho leader.

George, that could work in your favor. As cowboy-in-chief, you've co-opted a lot of free-floating testosterone and channeled your blue-shirt virility into good-ole-boy affability. You've chewed tobacco and you drank a bit at Yale, to show those blue bloods that you're a Texan, not some wimp.

You've played golf, chopped wood, cleared brush, and tossed baseballs - terrific "guy stuff." And you scored big points when you wore that flight jacket and leg-hugging harness that made so many Republican women's hearts go boom-boom.

But you may have overdone it. You seem stranded in your '50s world of hyper masculinity, while the country went metrosexual and gay. Maybe you should swagger less and think about a makeover? Don't wear those cowboy boots so much and ease up on those big belt buckles shaped like Texas. You're trying too hard to prove you're tough.

While your low-stress weight lifting works, you might try some yoga to uncoil that gunslinger, Barney-Fife hunch of yours. Your hair's too tightly clipped (looks painted on) and you're a big-time squinter and scowler at times. Botox alert?

Get some lip-gloss to mask the fact that you've misplaced your lips somewhere. Your open-collar shirts reveal a tiny island of chest hair - too low to be a shaving oversight and too high to be a peripheral outgrowth of Alex Baldwin chest mat. Might want to wax it.

And since you seem oh, so blissfully laid back and vacantly bubbly, you might also want to go blond. Might win some California votes. Just a few suggestions, George.

Dick, you squint too much, speak out of one side of your mouth, and play the Shrek role very well. You love guns and duck hunting and you probably really love that NASCAR Viagra car. When you emerge from your spiderhole, though, you might want to tone down that ogre image.

Dick, work on that Homer Simpson physique. Try a pierced ear, a diamond stud, a body-hugging black T-shirt and some new eyewear (please!). Your big face and lantern jaw are too scary (even for Halloween). As for your hair, you have my sincere regrets. Although you're not a stud, hero, or charmer, you could try to be more cuddly. Lighten up, Dick.

John K, you're a true patrician, a poetry lover and wine connoisseur, and you look and speak French (a negative for some). You read a lot, quote T. S. Eliot, play guitar, and windsurf and ski - not popular with the blue-collar crowd.

But you have tried to connect. Wearing that bomber jacket on the Harley helped. Playing ice hockey (a manly sport, indeed) worked. And you did try to diminish that cheese-eating, surrender-monkey image Republican pols paint.

But you're not perceived as a tough guy, even though you're a gun owner, an outdoorsman and real war hero. You have nice Kennedyesque hair and teeth, but is that enough, John? Too many voters see you as a Cassius type, with a lean and hungry look that would bother Julius Caesar.

You might try an Elvis sideburn and white cape to soften your dour image. Be more of a fun guy, John. And while you're at it, try not to display that right-arm, upside-down Heil Hitler gesture. It's a bit threatening.

John Edwards. Your broad, toothy smile is infectious and you're a Dudley Do-Right type, probably too nice for some. While you're a pleasant contrast to Kerry and you do appeal to some women voters, you don't add enough real muscle to the ticket. Remember when Rush Limbaugh called you the "Breck girl"?

Why not muscle up a bit, John? Emulate Arnold Schwarzenegger. Get a Hummer, smoke cigars and hit the weight room, hard. Could help. Right now, you don't look and act manly enough to counter your opponent, Cheney the ogre.

There you have it - my modest makeover suggestions, were you guys to do the 15-month campaign again. But remember, three of you are blue bloods, with a background of wealth and privilege, best schools, and best connections.

To connect with those undecided voters, you need to do more than play patriotism like a $29 accordion. You need to be more "manly." (Just kidding.) Best wishes.

Reach columnist Robert Brake at oobear@pacifier.com

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