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Swing voters

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The bowl of marshmallows looked out of place next to the cheese and crackers. "They're for Bush. To throw." Oh. Cool.

I had a friend years ago who kept a block of red-painted Styrofoam next to his La-Z-Boy. "A TV brick," he said. "For when they say something stupid, I can do more than scream at 'em."

Marshmallows. A TV brick for a kinder, gentler era.

It was almost 9 p.m., time for the last presidential debate. An acquaintance's TV room was made cozy by dogs, lefties, cold beers and a buffet of snacks on the coffee table. The marshmallows, white as truth, yet soft as a ... moderator's question, seemed unusually potent.

PAP.

It wasn't long before the Mis-leader of the Free World triggered the launch of a marshmallow rocket. And our applause. I really think I saw a red spot form on W's forehead.

For a good while we limited ourselves to barbs in the form of practiced retorts. I think we were a little intimidated by the power of the marshmallows.

Halfway through the debate, the Squanderer-in-Chief bought another marshmallow, this one right on his lips. I don't even remember what he was saying, but recall feeling that our replies to W's claims of "freedom on the march" and the "economy getting better" were only bringing out greater feelings of frustration on our parts. The marshmallows, on the other hand, seemed to bring some genuine satisfaction. I sensed a tipping point approaching. The dogs liked the idea of marshmallows as political statement too.

From my peripheral vision, another marshmissile winged by, but it missed the tube entirely, altering the mood. The dogs scrambled for the puffy, unmanned drone and we settled back into kibitzing our way through health care, jobs, taxes, cheese slices and fresh beers.

Closing statements. Kerry first. As he winds up, someone reaches over, scoops up a fistful of marshmallows and starts passing the bowl. "Bush's closing statement. Get ready."

Our fists were overflowing. The dogs were on high alert. Bush began.

As W offered the cover story for his forced march to a libertarian dystopia, we listened somberly. I remember thinking that although Kerry had more or less "won" the debates, Bush, the front man for people FDR called "economic royalists," could still win the election because a lot of working class people, like the ones I grew up with, such as Mr. TV brick, think he'd make a better beer date.

PAP.

More than halfway through his speech, someone nailed him on the cheek. Then, like smart bombs imprinted with a MAD magazine cover, little barrel-shaped balls of bleached, high-fructose corn syrup sprang from all corners of the room to bean Bush. The TV screen rang out with the assault weapon staccato of rapid-fire marshmallow compression. The dogs collided, we reloaded and everyone started laughing like kids on a playground.

The much-evoked Winston Churchill would've been very proud of us. Despite our best efforts, we may still go down in November. But we'll go down swinging. --frank hyman

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