We know the people aspiring to President of the United States are driven individuals. How driven? Most of these folks actually get driven everywhere, rather than getting behind the wheel themselves.
During the Sept. 22 Republican debate, nobody talked about the cars they drive or those that brought them to the auditorium. But at AOL Autos, we wanted to find out how the current President's automotive tastes run, as well as those of the people trying to unseat him.
In some cases, though, we think these folks have chosen the wrong ride. Does their ride reflect a side of them they would rather keep private or secret? Or have they chosen badly?
We think of it as the Feng Shui of cars and the people who drive them.
It's important that people have the ride that really suits them, otherwise they are driving around off balance and out of sorts.
There is history connected with candidates and their cars worth mentioning before we get into an assessment of today's hopefuls and their rides.
In 1992 Pat Buchanan, then a GOP presidential candidate, famously dug his own grave when he drove a German-manufactured Mercedes while singing the praises of "America First"--a push to boost domestic products and employment. To add insult to hypocrisy, he called the Cadillacs and Lincolns he'd driven "lemons."
Republican hopeful Fred Thompson in 2008 made a big deal about his "Red Pickup Tour." The pickup was supposed to reflect Thompson's folksiness. It didn't seem to help much.
FDR used his 1939 convertible Packard 12 with a V-12 engine to great success. Fred I. Greenstein, a presidential scholar and professor at Princeton University, claims that the car allowed FDR, who looked good in the car and had special controls made for it so he could operate it despite his crippling polio, to turn people's attention away from his infirmity.
Here's how today's candidates stack up on the road:
Barack Obama: Ford Escape Hybrid
The car in which he learned to drive was his grandfather's Ford Granada, a ride he has lambasted for poor quality. "It may be the worst car Detroit ever built," he told radio station WFBQ. "This thing was a tin can."
POTUS ditched his (Canadian-built) 20-mpg 2005 Chrysler 300C for a leased 2008 dark gray Ford Escape hybrid after catching criticism for driving a car that got such poor fuel economy. He has since returned that vehicle back to the dealership where he acquired it, Hawk Ford in Oak Lawn, Ill. Dealership general manager Jim Muisenga did not resell it, but rather put it up for auction to an undisclosed purchaser, according to the Detroit News. The 300C was listed on Ebay in early 2009 but reportedly has been removed and sits instead in storage in Naperville, Ill.
In 2008, Obama's HOPE and CHANGE campaign came powered by a flex-fuel GMC Yukon. The American ride was a UAW-built vehicle that got 17 mpg, or even less on its ethanol option.
AOL Autos Prescription for President Obama: Chrysler 300
After Obama's White House days are behind him, he will still need a secure limo in public. But for times when he sneaks off to air things out on the highway or to drive on a cross-country tour, we think the slightly bad-ass look of the Chrysler 300 is still the right look for the Commander-In-Chief. He should use his memoir royalties to get the loaded up Executive Series. Consumer Reports even says the new 300 is among the best in its class.
Mitt Romney: Cadillac SRX
In the 2008 election cycle, Mitt Romney announced his candidacy at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI, where he touted the AMC Rambler that belonged to his father, a former American Motors Corp. CEO. Romney hasn't lived in Michigan in many years, but he has stayed with his Motor City roots, owning a Ford Mustang GT, Cadillac SRX, and Chevy Silverado.
His driving history, though, has been less stellar than his fine taste in American cars. In 1983 on a road trip from Boston to Ontario, Romney infamously strapped a dog, the family's Irish setter, to his Chevy station wagon's roof. Romney, in the face of all ridicule over the incident, says he thought the dog would be happier in the fresh air.
AOL Autos Prescription For Mitt Romney: Subaru Forester
The former Massachusetts governor might do well to try a Subaru Forester. It looks like a car, but the government classifies it as a truck. It's reliable, but it isn't sure what it wants to be. Car or truck? Truck or car? It is also heralded as one of the most dog friendly vehicles you can buy, so no more strapping Rover on the roof.
Michele Bachmann: 2007 Chevrolet Impala
The Bachmann camp claims she currently doesn't have her own car--using airplane and rental cars to criss-cross the country. But her last car was a 2007 black Chevy Impala that she leased and gave up in 2009. It's a smart choice from a political perspective--both American-made and tough. But it is also a snooze, and belies the sparkle of Bachmann's campaign. It is also the ride of a past loser, 2000 Democratic hopeful Bill Bradley.
AOL Autos Prescription for Michele Bachmann: Dodge Grand Caravan R/T
Dodge Caravan R/T. Rep. Bachmann seems to have either lots of kids or staff to carry around. The Caravan is built in Canada, and being from Minnesota, she is practically Canadian anyway. She's going for the big job in a man's world, and this van, performance tuned for a more car-like ride, is actually hawked as a "man's van."
Newt Gingrich: Cadillac Escalade Hybrid
Though he's been called a "car bomber" by pundit Chris Matthews, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich may be quite the contrary: a vintage car lover. When he was Speaker, he had a green '67 Mustang. When he was 21, he bought his first car, a '62 Plymouth Barracuda.
Today, he drives around in a white hybrid Cadillac Escalade--manly, American, and a even a tweensy bit green.
In a 2010 Esquire profile, writer John H. Richardson reveals Gingrich has a predilection for comparing women to cars. After his second wife, Marianne Gingrich, had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and found out he had been having an affair with staffer Callista Bisek, he compared his wife to a Jaguar and his younger lover to a Chevrolet. "I can't handle a Jaguar right now," Gingrich said. "All I want is a Chevrolet." Alrighty, then.
AOL Autos Prescription for Newt Gingrich: Cadillac DTS
Newt has an old-school way about him, and the DTS seems to fit him at this stage of life. Big, comfy and conservative. Like Newt, the DTS is expected to be discontinued next year.
Ron Paul: 1996 Buick LeSabre
The physician-turned Congressman from Texas drives a '96 Buick LeSabre, one of the most boring, if reliable, and overly sensible rides of all time. If you can find someone under the age of 65 driving one of these, fire off a flare.
Paul's first ride was a Nash Rambler, those bulbous compacts produced by the Nash Motors division of the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation in the '50s. Incidentally, Mitt Romney's father George was running that car company at the time. Paul, it seems, was precocious in his attention to fuel economy, as the Rambler could, with its Straight-6, nab up to 30 mpg. A 15-year old LeSabre seems like the ultimate status-quo car. That doesn't sound like Ron Paul. Is he trying to court the elderly vote?
AOL Autos Prescription for Ron Paul: Ford Crown Victoria
Paul driving a 15 year old car is endearing. But Congressman, how about doing your part for the economy, and update your ride? Trade in your Buick for a 2011 Ford Crown Victoria. They just stopped making them, so hurry up. It's been the choice of police departments, taxi fleets and former LeSabre buyers, for the ease in which the cars can be fixed, and body panels repaired. As a doctor, he should appreciate that.
Jon Huntsman: 2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee
The former Governor of Utah and ambassador to China drives a black 2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee. But he started out his driving life as a poster child for Chevy: his first car was a 1975 Chevrolet Blazer, and his favorite car was a 1977 light blue Chevrolet Camaro. "I fell in love with the driver...who later became my wife," he told AOL Autos. Huntsman has some class.
AOL Autos Prescription for Jon Huntsman: Infiniti M45
Huntsman is trying to play the role of the moderate, sensible Republican in a year when extreme positions are in vogue. Rich beyond all reason due to his father's billions, Huntsman can afford any car he wants.
The Grand Cherokee is not a bad choice at all for Huntsman, especially for when he is back home in Utah. His "Car Sui" is probably just fine. But if he wants a passenger car that is in keeping with his wallet, but not too flashy, we might suggest the Infiniti M45, a sweet ride that few people even recognize as a luxury car.
AOL Autos Prescription For Rick Perry: Ford F-150 SVT Raptor
The Texas governor is a late comer to the race, but is already viewed as one of the two front-runners along with Mitt Romney. His office, though, would not confirm for AOL Autos what the Gov drives when he's not in the state limo.
But one thing we know about Texas is that it is pickup country. For this reason, we are prescribing that Governor Perry may want to think about a Ford F150 Raptor to go with his somewhat tough-guy, bad-ass image.
The Raptor has a 6.2 liter engine, with a switch that allows one to toggle between two-wheel drive, four-wheel drive high and four-wheel drive low. When the going gets really tough, the tough can get going by locking the rear end and engaging Off Road Mode, which uses electronic wizardry to change throttle and transmission shift maps along with the thresholds of the standard stability, traction and ABS brake controls.
Autoblog says one doesn't drive the Raptor as much as one really "pilots" the performance truck. That should appeal to the former Air Force pilot. Also, the U.S. border patrol has reportedly bought a few to chase after the more elusive drug lord miscreants. That should appeal to the Gov. as well.
AOL Autos Prescription For Rick Santorum: Lexus ES 350 Hybrid
The former Pennsylvania Senator's office would not confirm the candidate's current ride of choice.
Santorum is arguably the biggest cultural conservative in the field. A devout Catholic, Santorum is unyielding in his opposition of gay marriage as well the repeal of "Don't Ask. Don't Tell." Denial of abortion rights is also big with Santorum. It doesn''t matter what polls say on these positions, Santorum is unbending.
For the Keystone stater, we think he'd be comfortable in a Lexus ES350 Hybrid. It's a vanilla ride, with a hybrid powertrain that seems hardly worth the premium. But Toyota, like Santorum, is unbending in its commitment to hybrids as a the answer to better fuel economy.
Hermain Cain: 2001 Lexus LS 430
The former chief of Godfather's Pizza is a survivor of liver cancer. We were surprised that such a fire-brand entrepreneur drives a car as sedate as a 2001 Lexus LS 430. His taste for Japanese cars may not earn him points with the United Auto Workers. But he could always counter with the truth that his first car was a 1956 Ford. These days he's going for the Common Sense Solutions Bus Tour bus.
AOL Autos Prescription for Herman Cain: Cadillac CTS-V
The first prescription we have is stop eating that truly awful pizza. Then, we think the pizza man should be driving a Cadillac CTS-V, a super-fun performance version of the slick looking Caddy CTS. C'mon, Herm! You have the money, built a business empire and cheated death. Live a little.
AOL Autos Prescription For Buddy Roemer: Ford Flex
Despite Roemer's almost anonymous campaign, his people denied our request to know what the former Governor of Louisiana drives. Whether he's hiding luxury, foreign, bad taste, or something entirely unappetizing in his car remains to be seen. We would have thought he'd want to be included in any list of Presidential hopefuls. AOL Autos would have been the first news organization to give his candidacy real credibility...though he did have a guest spot on Jon Stewart.
His campaign is practically run out of the trunk of a car, so let's give him Ford Flex. The chilled drink cooler will come in handy when he has to drive himself to the first debate he is invited to. Maybe he can catch a ride with former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson.
Sarah Palin: Chevrolet Suburban
Nope, the former Governor does not drive a Mercury Cougar. One of her rides back in Wasilla was a Red Volkswagen TDI, though we can't get confirmation that she is still driving it, or if she has given it over to one of her kids. We admire that choice, though, as we are big believers in clean diesel.
Her other ride has been a Chevy Suburban, a typical choice for heads of state who need armored protection and a big getaway engine.
AOL Autos Prescription for Sarah Palin: Nissan Rogue
Palin is all about managing the Palin brand. What better way than to drive the Nissan Rogue as an ongoing homage to her book about the 2008 election, "Going Rogue." We can't believe Nissan didn't sign her up to promote what has been a fairly anonymous, if competent, crossover SUV.
Gary Johnson: Porsche 911 Targa
The former New Mexico Gov. who favors legalization of marijuana, likes speed. Who can argue with a Targa?
AOL Autos Prescription for Gary Johnson: Hyundai Santa Fe
But we think Johnson is going to have tone it down if he is serious about running. How about a Hyundai Santa Fe, built in Alabama and named after a city with a lot of memories for Johnson. Don't forget to pick up Roemer on the way to the next debate.