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Published: Tuesday, 3/1/2005

George vs. George

FORMER Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry should take heart. In a recent Presidents' Day poll, even George Washington had to work hard to beat George W. Bush in a head-to-head hypothetical race for president.

Thanks to support from Democrats and Independents, the father of our country out-polled Mr. Bush by 19 percentage points in a survey done for Washington College in Maryland. But the numbers from Republican respondents were downright un-American: Mr. Bush beat the hero of the Revolution in a landslide, 62 percent to 28 percent. If only Mr. Washington had hit back at those Swift Canoes for Truth ads.

While George Washington handily defeated Mr. Bush in the Presidents' Day survey, he placed an embarrassing seventh in a separate Gallup Poll on America's greatest presidents, according to the Washington Post.

Abraham Lincoln was ranked No. 1, but that may change if the public begins to buy into the notion, put forth in a new book by C.A. Tripp, that the Great Emancipator was gay. Ronald Reagan came in second, bringing the Gipper that much closer to a spot on Mount Rushmore. Franklin D. Roosevelt eked out a third-place finish, buoyed by folks whose leaders are debating the fate of his greatest domestic legacy, Social Security.

John Kennedy, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush rounded out the top six ahead of George Washington. We can understand the sympathy vote for JFK, given his tragic ending, but as for Presidents Clinton and Bush finishing ahead of a founder of American democracy, we can only surmise that contempt for the familiar hasn't set in yet with much of the public.

As any candidate will tell you, the only poll that really counts is the one on Election Day.

But until our democracy begins fielding more history-worthy candidates, George Washington and Abe Lincoln will always be the presidents to beat - in our humble opinion.

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