The Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde primaries

Presidential primaries have evolved measurably, with specific components and histories that can be analyzed objectively. In felicitous manner, Dr. Jekyll has provided fact-filled dispassionate discussion of Iowa and New Hampshire separately in various publications.

Public political competition also unleashes primal tribal emotions, intense personal passions and great group drives. Mr. Hyde now seizes control to highlight this dementia, excuse me, dimension.

1. "Money Talks." This durable declaration, attributed to political philosopher Joseph P. Kennedy, highlights a basic fact of life, not just in politics. California Kennedy pol Jesse Unruh liked to say that money "is the mother's milk of politics," followed by very earthy references inappropriate in a family paper.

Speaker Unruh, who for years dominated the California state Assembly, was called "Big Daddy," a playful reference to his clout as well as girth. A West Coast incarnation of the Eastern political boss, Unruh collected corporate and union contributions, farmer funds and movie money in big amounts.

But good mothers provide a lot more than milk; some people even believe fathers are important. In politics, money is necessary but insufficient alone. So far, Mitt Romney has spent vast sums in Iowa and New Hampshire, without much success. If you achieve enough initial public support, money follows. Previously, poor Mike Huckabee's campaign is now attracting a lot more cash.

If money alone bought the keys to the White House, we would have had Presidents John Connolly, Steve Forbes, Averill Harriman, Ross Perot and Nelson Rockefeller.

2. "Shed a Tear." Did calculating Hillary Rodham Clinton coldly plan that emotional response to a heartfelt question from another woman, or was this authentic? The question probably was not planted. Marianne Pernold Young plaintively pressed in a Portsmouth, N.H., cafe, "How do you do it?" But she added the anvil: "Who does your hair?"

Given that context, Sen. Clinton's emotional but orderly reply about national needs was probably planned, but so what? Great politicians use emotion to bond with the people.

Jonathan Alter's superb recent book, "The Defining Moment," on Franklin D. Roosevelt's famed "First 100 Days" in the White House, describes how the president's radio fireside chats gripped the public. Presidents Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover also used the radio, to little effect. Alter describes how FDR would recall and reflect on specific working people he had met, their tasks and concerns.

Quoting prolific journalist and scholar Michael Barone, Alter argues that President Ronald Reagan had a very similar approach, consciously imitating FDR in his own media messages. The ultimate test is sustained effectiveness in communication through the available media.

Roosevelt greatly expanded engagement with newspapers and magazines as well as radio. Likewise, Reagan made active use of radio as well as television. The next president will be challenged to make serious, not superficial, use of the Internet, integrated with other media.

3. "Three's A Crowd." At some primordial level, we understand that two parties are better than many. The Founding Fathers warned about factions. America's ultimate founders, the British, have spent hundreds of years struggling for broad political coalitions. By contrast, continental Europeans have been more brittle, rigid, ideological, at times disastrously.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg hovers in the wings, assessing his third-party chances. View him as a barometer. If the system is working, he will stay at bay.

Having vented, Hyde has vanished.

Back in control, Jekyll picks up "The Almanac of American Politics" by Barone and associates. This insightful biennial volume provides state-by-state analysis, crammed with facts, figures and historical context, clearly presented. When politics drives you crazy, read this good book.

(Arthur I. Cyr is Clausen Distinguished Professor at Carthage College and author of "After the Cold War" (NYU Press/Palgrave Macmillan). He can be reached at acyr(at)