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  NASHUA, NEW HAMPSHIRE -- After following the Democratic presidential candidates around New Hampshire for two weeks, I can rattle off any one of their stump speeches by heart. During the drive home my colleagues and I played a game: Name That soundbite.

"We need a higher standard of leadership in this country." "Clark!"

"And I beat 'em again! And I beat 'em again! And I beat 'em again!" "Edwards!"

"I know something about air craft carriers for real." "Kerry!"

These guys can say an awful lot without actually saying anything. And the television talking heads whittle their message down to even less than that. You need translation. I'm here to give it to you, in a way we all can understand.

John Hughes has cornered the market on teen movies, having written Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and Some Kind of Wonderful. Yes, his writing credits also include Maid in Manhattan and that Beethoven-as-a-big-dog movie, but we'll ignore that. For all of you who prefer pop culture to politics, here's a guide that cuts through the crap and lets you know who the hell the seven remaining candidates really are -- by comparing them to characters in three Molly Ringwald movies.

Consider yourself informed-now you have no excuse for not getting to your state's primary and voting for your favorite Brat Packer.


Gen. Wesley Clark a/ka
Brian Johnson (The Brain) from The Breakfast Club


Clark has some good credentials: First in his class at West Point, Rhodes Scholar, and -- as Michael Moore pointed out to a gym full of supporters and undecideds -- Clark was captain of the debate team. Does he sound like a nerd, or what?

Brian Johnson, the Brain of the Breakfast Club, fits the bill nicely. Brian wants a fake ID real bad -- not to buy cigarettes, go to


strip clubs, or drink underage -- but so he can vote before he turns 18. His patriotism is unparalleled, which, of course, is exactly what Clark is running on.

Their shared downfall, of course, is their naiveté. Brian and Clark are both new to the game of politics. Like the Brain, Clark is going to get burned many times before he's seasoned enough to handle his opponents.

Rev. Al Sharpton a/ka
Long Duk Dong in Sixteen Candles

  So many similarities... where to begin?

First of all, where the hell does Long Duk Dong come from? And what about Sharpton? Like Clark, he's never before held political office. Though sometimes their appearance seems random -- like when Sharpton shows up in


New Hampshire out of nowhere for a debate though he has hardly set foot in the state -- we're always glad they arrive to perk things up. The unpredictability factor of each keeps us on our toes.

Sharpton will defend an opponent one minute and then have him up against the ropes the next, with no real rhyme or reason. It's entirely random.

The bottom line, though, is that both of them are hilarious. Who else out of the seven candidates could even come close to pulling off a line like "No more yankie my wankie. The Donger need food." Certainly not Joe Lieberman.


Gov. Howard Dean a/ka
Duckie from Pretty in Pink

  When we first meet Duckie, he is offering to impregnate two of his female classmates "by the holidays." Maybe this would scare some people off, but, fact is, he's being a straightforward guy. Hell, at least he's honest about his intentions!

Though we've seen both Dean and Duckie freak out (think the record store scene where Duckie rocks out and lip-syncs to Otis Redding), they're expressing pure exuberance and enthusiasm. Sure, Duckie attacks Stef with a rebel yell in the hall of their high school, just as Dean attacks Bush … but those assholes deserve it! Dean and Duckie are heartfelt, genuine and sincere. The kicker is that Duckie


doesn't win in the end, deserving as he is. A bad omen.


Sen. Joe Lieberman a/ka
The Dad from Sixteen Candles

  This one is perfect. He seems a little out of touch with the young'uns, but when it comes down to it, both of them are sweet, well-meaning guys. Lieberman claims that he has the most integrity of the lot, and you know what? He does. That doesn't make him any cooler, though.

Neither The Dad nor Lieberman are really key players in their situations. And neither of them can get the masses, whether


moviegoers or voters, that jazzed up. But after seeing the Liebster campaign in person, I can tell you that while he's far from exciting-really, really boring, now that you mention it-he's a really solid candidate. He's forthright with his views whether they line up with the soundbite of the day or not, and he's never flip-flopped in his 30 years as a politician. If I were in charge of Molly Ringwald, I'd entrust her to him, easily.


Sen. John Kerry a/ka
Principal Vernon from The Breakfast Club

  This one is a stretch, admittedly. Truth is, Kerry just isn't that exciting. "Lackluster" would be the nice way to put it. If I hear that guy say, "I look forward to that fight, my friends," again I'm gonna throw down. He said it TWICE in the last debate, and, you know, debates aren't that long.

But like Principal Vernon in Saturday detention,


Kerry's aim is to sound really scary and threatening … and he doesn't come close to pulling it off. Kerry's campaign posters echo his canned speeches -- "The Real Deal," "Fighting for You!" etc. But the Judd Nelsons of the world will never take his scripted battle cries seriously, and that snotty rich kid in the back of the class named Bush is destined have the last laugh.


Rep. Dennis Kucinich a/ka
The Geek in Sixteen Candles

  Like The Geek, Kucinich isn't a bad guy. Yes, they both scare most of the more mainstream people they encounter, but ultimately they have a lot of good qualities, if people could just look past the pocket protectors and the "Kick Me" sign on their back.

The problem is that just like The Geek, no one gives Kucinich a chance. Voters discount him for being too fringe and not having the right friends/endorsements. (Not that, um, Willie Nelson's endorsement doesn't count, but, uh, Willie Nelson's endorsement doesn't count. Do they even let Willie Nelson vote?) Like any head of the nerds, his supporters are the fiercest around; some of


them have traveled the entire country in an unheated, rainbow-painted bus to spread the good word of Dennis to those gathered round their peace-lovin' drumbeat.

But the guys who follow Kucinich most closely are his two big and friendly bodyguards, still around from the days when the Cleveland mob threatened to kill him, wired with headphones and walkie talkies … reminiscent of the two dweebs that stick closely by The Geek's side, following orders and manning the boys' bathroom during the panty peepshow.


Sen. John Edwards a/ka
Blane from Pretty in Pink

  Edwards' campaign is only picking up steam. He has taken longer than some of the other candidates to win voters over. Like Blane in Pretty in Pink, he seems too good to be true. It turns out, the more we see of them as the movie-slash-campaign continues, the more evident it is that both are a little better than the breed we associate them with.

Blane rises above the rich bitch friends of his and


treats Molly Ringwald like a gentleman should. Likewise, Edwards, though his sly smile seems a little too slick, is the only candidate that has never taken money from special interests, though the whole Democratic field purports to be against lobbyists. Hell, Clark even worked as one.

Though he's not my personal pick, I think we just might see Edwards rise to the top, just like our boy Blane.