Voters have to try extra hard these days to make sense of the world around them as politicians and pundits lay claim to their attention. If it isn’t the president or his surrogates making statements that defy logic and the realities most people face, it is campaigners trying to drum up support for their candidacy. Into the mix media masters offer analyses of everything from government policy to electioneering tactics, often creating even more of a muddle as they try to ‘explain’ political currents.

The president insists we aren’t really in an economic tailspin, but rather just a little slowdown – – nothing that a few more tax cuts and government checks to encourage consumption won’t remedy. His former Chief of Staff, Andrew Card, went even further on TV’s “Morning Joe” touting, among other things, the strength of soybean and energy markets. Apparently some agricultural sectors are doing well and, for sure the purveyors of energy are reveling in record profits. In fact, things are just dandy until it comes time to fill up one’s gas tank or pay one’s fuel bill, leaving listeners to ponder how Bush devotees have the audacity to makes such claims.

Recently, in a play on Barack Obama’s book, The Audacity of Hope, some political movers and shakers were described as simply having the audacity of audacity, a pointed, disturbingly accurate observation. The public is supposed to take at face value the president’s assertion that numerous terrorist attacks have been averted due to his diligence and the government’s ability to torture and wiretap without judicial or legislative restraint. The wonder is that, after all the dissembling, the poor results of the last seven years, the incompetence at all levels of this administration and its constant maneuvering to protect a legacy unworthy of historical approbation, there still remain stalwart supporters who would vote for Mr. Bush again.

For those who want a continuation of current policies and still ‘believe’, Senator McCain provides hope, having announced his readiness to step into the august surroundings of the Oval Office and follow in the Bush footsteps. His latest commercial is filled with the sights and sounds of past wars and warriors and he speaks proudly about victory, undefined and without time restraints. For some these words and a background of gunfire and bombs exploding will cause them to swell with pride and vote accordingly.

On the Democratic side Hillary Clinton makes much of her experience and her readiness on “day one” to assume the mantel of President and Commander in Chief. She even asserts that she and Senator McCain are similarly qualified for the job and says that Senator Obama may make a fine speech but just isn’t ready for prime time. Her campaign manager, Howard Wolfsin, says they have not engaged in sub-prime-time tactics and that on the whole Clinton campaign rhetoric has been pretty tame. Perhaps deviously tame but back-loaded with a vengeance would more accurately describe their approach.

For his part Senator Obama says he admires Clinton’s tenacity. But, speaking in Mississippi, he reminded his audience that it was a bit odd for her to imply that he might be her running mate in November. Adding that although he may not win in the end, at the moment he has more delegates and more votes and has won twice as many states so it would seem both premature and not terribly logical to suggest that he could be the vice presidential candidate. Let’s be clear he said, “I am running for President of the United States of America not for vice president”. Voters must make a choice he said; this isn’t an opportunity for either or both.

Besides, and he quoted Bill Clinton, who when choosing his running mate, said it had to be someone who could assume the presidency should it become necessary and therefore that person needed to be as qualified as the president. That being so, Obama questioned how Senator Clinton could work so hard at questioning his bona fides and then hint that he might be an acceptable vice president. And he asserted once again the importance of good judgment as opposed to just putting in time in Washington.

In the Mississippi primary it remains to be seen what sense voters will make of the choices before them. Although this is an open presidential primary, there are other offices to fill so the temptation to cross over and affect the Democratic outcome will be tempered by local considerations.