As much as I hate that the poster children for Valtrex and Child Protective Services (Paris Hilton and Britney Spears) have been injected into our political debate, a practical part of me recognizes that any campaign staffer paying attention to the election coverage would be forced to craft voter appeals aimed at the lowest common denominator.

In January President Bush will leave the country with the largest federal budget deficit in history; there is rising violence in Afghanistan; we have an energy crisis that continues to burden average Americans and the late word is that the Mexican peso is beginning to take pity on the declining American dollar.

But what are we talking about in this political season? The spending habits of Cindy McCain and the college thesis of Michelle Obama. We are talking about who is too black, who is too old and that all-important political litmus test: "Which candidate would you rather have a beer with?"

When we're not holding a national forum on the politics of satire or the satire of politics, we're conducting a national standardized test on the idiocies of the American electorate via pollsters.

Look no further than a recent AP-Yahoo News poll that found that pet owners favor McCain over Obama 42 percent to 37 percent. These two news outlets felt compelled to spend 10 days asking 1,759 adults how pet ownership influences their vote. Apparently the political wisdom of dog lovers and cat people should not go unacknowledged. In the poll, Janet Taylor, of Plymouth, Mass., told surveyors, "I think a person who owns a pet is a more compassionate person—caring, giving, trustworthy. I like pet owners."

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Does the fate of this country hinge on which candidate Velma feels loves Scooby and Scrappy more?

Or will the election be decided by which candidate voters would prefer to have over for a barbecue ? Or maybe it's going to all come down to which prospective presidential spouse we like better?

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But then again, there remain the always-burning questions like, "Who would you let eat off your plate?" or "Which candidate reminds you more of the person you hated most in high school?"

I can imagine the tabulated results: "McCain just seems like the jackass who pissed everyone off all the time. I'm not voting for anyone that reminds me of the person that used to taunt or annoy me," one unreconstructed high-school geek might say.

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It wouldn't shock me to read a comment along the lines of: "I don't know what this arugula is, but I got an e-mail saying that's all Barack Obama eats, so he's probably too fancy to want anything from my kitchen!"

Or wait: Are we still waiting on confirmation that he's secretly in love with Allah and the destruction of America? Where's a Gallup daily tracking poll when you need one?

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It would be great if the press could get the presidential contenders to touch on the BBC's report that China is fueling the war in Sudan, but that might interfere with the debate over Ludacris' latest mixtape or this country's collective swooning over Angelina's new baby pictures. Covering substantive issues could also distract the media from using polls to make new and interesting discoveries like Barack Obama's candidacy not bridging the gap between whites and blacks or that Hispanic voters don't hate all black people.

The most honest poll I've seen thus far in this election cycle comes from a "fake news organization," The Onion. Their poll asked, "What's the most important issue to 2008 voters?"

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The answer?

B.S.

Michael Arceneaux is a Houston-bred, Howard-educated freelance writer and blogger.

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Michael Arceneaux hails from Houston, lives in Harlem and praises Beyoncé’s name wherever he goes. Follow him on Twitter.