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Voting Smart

As America celebrates another birthday, a slew of characters are vying for the nation's most high-profile job, President of the United States.

Some of the front-runners on both sides of the aisle are New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards (Democrats), and Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and Arizona Sen. John McCain (Republicans).

It's too early to say who'll be left standing by next fall, but many are wondering: Who's the best man or woman for the job?

They're Job Candidates

To make an educated choice on voting day means we need to think beyond issues that amount to little more than gossip. For example, focusing on why Hillary has stayed married to Bill despite his infidelities doesn't tell us much about what her fiscal policies might be, or how she'd respond if America suffered another terrorist attack.

Instead, we should treat those running for president as job candidates--that is, after all, what they are. Election day is when we hire a new manager for America, and it behooves us to do our homework on each potential hire.

Why not start by crafting questions that crop up during typical job interviews: Are they effective managers? What's their leadership style, and are they strong leaders? Do they work well with others?

Answers to these questions will help paint a picture of how each candidate might serve as leader of the free world. Of course, tracking the candidates' positions on issues also is critical--particularly healthcare, education, taxes and foreign policy.

What's Past is Informative Prologue

It's also a good idea to check out the candidates' job histories and resumes. I did that recently, researching the career histories of Giuliani and Clinton (see PayScale stories here and here), and I uncovered facts that revealed a clearer picture of each.

Clinton once had a summer job where she slimed fish in Alaska, and children's issues have been a focal point throughout her career. Giuliani indicted organized crime figures and white collar criminals during his days as a public prosecutor; reducing crime and welfare rolls were among issues he focused on while Mayor of New York. Clinton started out as a Republican, and Giuliani was initially a Democrat.

The key, then, to voting smart lies in getting educated about the candidates. Read, watch real newscasts and talk with others. There's too much at stake to not take part in the election of 2008.

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