Blue or Pink States

Journalists Charlie Savage and Luiza Savage with son, Will, 2.
Journalists Charlie Savage and Luiza Savage with son, Will, 2. "After the next election" is Luiza's answer to people who ask about the timing of another happy event. (By Melina Mara -- The Washington Post)

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By Libby Copeland
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Political campaigns require at least as much care and feeding as babies, which is a good reason not to try to manage both at the same time. Those who work in politics are well aware of the dangers of trying to juggle two whiny, unpredictable and demanding creatures at once.

That's why they often plan their babies around the election cycle.

Reader! Lest you be appalled at the idea of scheduling conception around something so profane as politics, consider the specter of having to use a breast pump on a campaign bus.

"I don't think anybody has a child during an election year," says Nicole McCleskey, a Republican pollster, and by "anybody," McCleskey means people like her, people whose lives are dominated by two- and four-year cycles. They shoot for off years, like 2005 -- when McCleskey's son was born.

Off years are a sacred time for political people, the temporal equivalent of having one's BlackBerry on vibrate. They are a time for rest and renewal, for creating the tiny creatures who will grow up to be the campaign aides and reporters and pollsters and strategists who will ensure that bales of hay continue to fulfill their destiny as stage props, and that diners in Manchester, N.H., remain cliches of small-town America.

Some people don't quite get it.

"People say sort of coyly, 'So are you going to have another one? When are you going to have another one?' " says Luiza Savage, 32, Washington correspondent for the Canadian newsweekly Maclean's, who has a toddler with her husband, who also covers politics.

"And I say, 'After the next election.' And they laugh, and I say, 'No, really. After the next election.' "

* * *

People plan their children around all sorts of milestones, like finishing law degrees or turning 30. But the caffeine-fueled and over-scheduled folks who work in politics might be, if not a different species entirely, a few genetic tweaks away from everyone else. They travel more and see less. Leaving behind their families and any hope of proper sleep, they give their all to one person, getting to know this person's foibles and peculiar habits, scheduling this person's breakfasts and drilling him or her on the proper pronunciation of "Ahmadinejad."

Preparation and prognostication are their livelihood. People who do quality time by appointment are less inclined to leave reproduction to chance. They are kings of the calendar.

Thus, if an inordinate number of Mike McElwain's friends have children who were born in the off years of 2003 and 2005, why should anyone be surprised? McElwain is former political director of the National Republican Congressional Committee, now a consultant. His daughter was born in 2005.


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