Has the presidential race just gone to the dogs? Or are we simply in those dog days between the primary season and the start of the general election?
Whatever it is, the political Mommy Wars seem to have given way this week, at least temporarily, to the Doggy Wars, with an effort by supporters of both Mitt Romney and President Obama to gain points with the Doggy Vote. That's dog owners, not the dogs themselves -- at least for now.
Romney's dog Seamus, goes the anecdote, was strapped to the top of the family car in a crate for the entire 1983 family trip from Boston to Canada, during which he developed gastric distress, which resulted in both car and dog having to be hosed off. Romney did so, and put the dog back up there.
The story came out in 2007 and has since been used by Romney's opponents to describe him as cold and uncaring. Dogs Against Romney, a group started by social media consultant Scott Crider, now boasts more than 50,000 friends on Facebook; Obama campaign staffers have a Facebook page called Pet Lovers for Obama. Campaign strategist David Axelrod in January tweeted a photo of his boss and dog Bo in a car -- inside, of course -- saying "How Loving Owners Transport Their Dogs."
It came up again this week when Romney and wife Ann were interviewed by Diane Sawyer on ABC. Ann Romney insisted the dog loved to travel that way, and had only gotten sick that one time. "He had the runs," she laughed, though the couple did not look totally amused.
Then Wednesday, a conservative blogger pointed out a passage in Obama's "Dreams From My Father" that mentions having been given dog meat when he was a child in Indonesia. That prompted a delighted outpouring on Twitter by amused Obama opponents, peppered with dog recipes. John McCain tweeted a photo of his son's dog, with the line "I'm sorry Mr. President, he's not on the menu."
A Romney spokesman revisited that nice picture of Obama and Bo, saying it was, in hindsight, "chilling." An Obama spokesman tweeted back decrying the attack on a small child. On Thursday it all reached the White House briefing room, with chief spokesman Jay Carney saying that making a big deal of the dog-meat episode "sounds like somebody who's trying to get out of the doghouse on something."
Puns aside, the episode didn't seem quite so humorous to many dog owners interviewed by the Associated Press.
"Really, both issues are stupid, given what we are wrestling with as a country," said Patricia Warne, a research scientist who lives in Rockland County, north of New York City, and owns four dogs -- three border collies and a dachshund. Yet the Romney episode bothered her. "Given the money he has, couldn't he have found some other way to transport his family and the dog? I wouldn't put a dog up there any more than I would a kid."