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Sexuality as strategy

Not since Al Gore’s memorable kiss with his wife, Tipper, at the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles has sexuality been as prominent an issue in a presidential campaign. With several older men (and their younger wives) among the current hopefuls, voters may ask, for example, how sexy a first lady should be. (Stephen Savoia / AP)
“Sexuality has this unconscious power,” says sociologist Pepper Schwartz, who believes that the interactions of political couples send powerful messages. Here, Republican candidate Rudolph W. Giuliani and his wife, Judith Nathan Giuliani, strike a steamy pose in the March issue of Harper’s Bazaar. (Harper’s Bazaar)
Presumed Republican hopeful Fred Thompson and his wife, Jeri, attend a fundraiser in Richmond, Va., in June. Commentators have taken note of their age difference -- 24 years -- as well as her fashion sense, somewhat daring by political standards. (Steve Helber / AP)
Democratic candidate Barack Obama has become something of a sex symbol, in part thanks to video tributes from the likes of “Obama Girl.” But when he and his wife, Michelle, were featured on the cover of Ebony magazine’s February issue, their pose was that of a traditional presidential hopeful and supportive first lady. (Ebony Magazine)
Cindy McCain, 18 years younger than her husband, Republican candidate John McCain, gives Fox’s Greta Van Susteren a tour of the couple’s new Phoenix condo. (Fox News)
Some observers have questioned whether politicians’ public displays of marital tenderness are spontaneous or calculated, as when then-President Clinton and his wife, Hillary, enjoyed a dance on the beach in the Virgin Islands in 1998. “That will live in my gallery of infamy,” social critic Camille Paglia said. (Paul J. Richards / AFP)