At the center of controversies and charm offensives, the spouses of US candidates vying for the White House seem to be everywhere on the campaign trail and often on the front line.
In contrast to the traditional and reserved Laura Bush, who steps down as First Lady in January 2009, this campaign's lineup of spouses -- including former president Bill Clinton -- offers an eclectic array of personalities and styles.
"These days, political spouses can be as benign as a smiling red-carpet date or as deadly as a chief strategist, or both," Gloria Borger, a US journalist and commentator.
The crowd-pleasing Bill Clinton, who is actively involved in his wife Hillary's presidential bid, could become the first ever "First Husband" in the White House.
More than a year before the 2008 vote, some spouses of leading candidates have already made headlines and sparked a flurry of commentary.
Judith Guiliani, the third wife of Republican front-runner Rudy Giuliani, has been described in articles as an obnoxious social climber who is disliked by her stepchildren.
Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Democratic candidate John Edwards, has won sympathy and admiration in the face of her incurable cancer. She has become almost more popular than her husband.
While she has been praised for showing grace under pressure, Elizabeth Edwards has also taken a few jabs at Hillary Clinton, now leading the polls among Democrats, saying her husband John is a better advocate for women and that she is "more joyful" than Clinton.
And Michelle Obama, the wife of Senator Barack Obama -- Clinton's main challenger -- generated national media attention in the past week when she said: "If you can't run your own house, you can't run the White House."
Her remark was interpreted as a veiled swipe at Clinton who as First Lady endured her husband's affair with a White House intern. But the Obamas denied the charge.
With the exception of stay-at-home mother of five sons Ann Romney, wife of Mormon Republican candidate Mitt Romney, most of the candidates' spouses have had their own careers.
Elizabeth Edwards is a lawyer. Michelle Obama has degrees from Princeton and Harvard and was vice-president of a medical center at the University of Chicago.
Jeri Thompson, wife of actor and former senator Fred Thompson who has yet to formally declare his candidacy, worked among Washington's Republican power brokers.
The Republican presidential contenders, traditionally presented as paragons of family values, are almost all divorced and remarried -- often with younger women. Jeri Thompson is 24 years younger than her husband and often photographed in evening dresses with plunging necklines.
Republican Senator John McCain is 18 years older than his spouse, Cindy McCain, who has admitted a former addiction to painkillers.
If Democratic lawmaker Dennis Kucinich, 60, managed to win the presidential race, his British-born wife, Elizabeth, would be the first First Lady in modern times not born a US citizen -- as well as the first with a pierced tongue.
The tall red-head, who towers above her husband, worked in African development, likes to cite the Kama Sutra and is the youngest of all the candidates' wives and husbands at age 29.
Last Mod: 27 Ağustos 2007, 22:01