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The Republicans have a dog problem

By Laurie Bennett

December 3, 2011 at 9:04am

Dogs are undoing the GOP.

Mitt Romney, of course, has been hounded by Seamus, the now-deceased Irish setter who was tied to the roof of the car during a family vacation.

Checkers and the Nixons
Checkers and the Nixons

Now it turns out that Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, in a dead heat with upstart Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren, has a shih tzu named “Snuggles.” Yes, he of the manly pickup truck with 200,000 miles on the odometer.

Roll Call reports that while walking his dogs onto the Senate subway, Brown was overheard saying, “Get on the train, Snuggles.”

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow loved the name so much she couldn’t stop saying it on Friday’s show.

In the white-knuckled, wind-tossed world of politics, a dog should be safe harbor. Richard Nixon spotted this in a cocker spaniel named Checkers.

Franklin Roosevelt’s Scottish terrier, Fala, accompanied him everywhere, even aboard the U.S.S. Augusta in 1941 when the president and Winston Churchill signed the Atlantic Charter. Fala now sits near FDR at the Roosevelt Memorial in Washington.

Fala & FDR
Fala & FDR

Pets have helped the savviest pols craft a public image since the earliest days of mass media.

Lyndon Johnson howled with Yuki, his mixed-breed dog, and lifted his beagles, Him and Her, by their ears.

Barbara Bush’s dog Millie authored a best-selling book, appropriately titled, “Millie’s Book.”

At least Millie paid her own way. The Clintons’ cat, Socks, received so many letters at the White House that Republican Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana objected to taxpayer dollars being spent on answering them.

As often happens with Republicans and pets, Burton later laughed off his stance as a “mistake.”

It’s no wonder that President Obama spent so much time weighing his options before finally selecting Bo, a male Portuguese water dog, as the first dog.

Yuki and LBJ
Yuki and LBJ

Canine choice can make or break a candidacy.

Obama was shrewd enough to pick a pet with ties to two crucial states. Bo’s father hails from Pennsylvania; his mother, from Texas. One of his siblings was owned by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.

We searched and searched for pets associated with the Republican presidential field, but our Google results were choked with corn dog references.

We did find this this allegedly verbatim exchange on the Gingrich 2012 web site, between the candidate and third-grader Katrina Russell.

Katrina: “If you have pets, what are you going to do with them?”

Newt: “I don’t have pets right now, but I love pets. We used to have dogs which I like a lot. Maybe if when we get to the White House we might get a dog.”

Gingrich is obviously taking his cue from the incumbent. Make no dog choices, take no dog actions, until safely (if when) in the Oval Office.

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