Reality TV Courts Aspiring Presidents

Article excerpt

Byline: Jennifer Harper, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Character, charisma and a power tie: Surely this is the stuff of an American president. Hollywood has a few more embellishments, however.

White House hopefuls have less than three weeks to submit their applications to "Candidate 2012," a new HBO reality TV show intent on finding "one curious and compelling young American" to go through the rigors of the campaign trail.

Several hundred applications already have arrived, said Los Angeles-based director R.J. Cutler.

"Actually, I am completely overwhelmed by how many people see themselves as viable candidates. This is no lark. They are serious," he said Friday. "They believe their passion could one day lead them to the White House."

Mr. Cutler and his staff have boiled down presidential qualifications to 60 questions plumbing aspirants' political souls and debating their styles and tastes in movies, best friends, heroes and spouses, among other things.

They are not alone in assigning a touchy-feely quotient to the office. Public polls from the likes of CNN and Newsweek often include questions about a candidate's emotional appeal. A group of University of Iowa psychologists, in the meantime, surveyed 100 presidential historians to discover that presidents come in eight types, including dominators, introverts, good guys, innocents, actors, philosophers and extroverts.

HBO favors all-comers and has posted a nine-page application on its Web site (www.hbo.com/candidate2012). Though there are queries about "wild" experiences and a plea to "list three adjectives that best describe you," the show has some basic requirements. Potential presidents must be between 24 and 29, natural-born U.S. citizens and not running for any real political office.

The process, Mr. Cutler said, will make great theater once a "candidate" is picked and filming begins around July Fourth. The winner must agree to travel the country for the next eight months on an all-out baby-kissing, flag-waving whistlestop tour. …