Democratic Candidates Show Softer Side

The Democratic presidential primaries have given voters a chance to learn how their favorite candidate feels about Iraq, terrorism, health care and taxes, but the men hoping for a chance to unseat President Bush have also revealed a few of their favorite things on the campaign trail.

In recent queries as to their personal preferences of movies, music and foods, the candidates have offered a surprising array of answers: Sen. John Kerry (search) has an affection for the movie "Old School" and music by The Beatles but hates rhubarb pie; Wesley Clark (search) craves Cheetos and Gummi Bears, enjoys the "Lord of the Rings" movies and has a soft spot for the band Journey.

But the question remains whether their answers make a difference to would-be supporters.

"The public wants to have this information," said image consultant Anderson C. Toney, founder and director of The Anderson Research Center of Image and Etiquette (search). "It gives them the idea that they're really getting close to the person who's going to take care of them."

And voters are often drawn in by candidates they think they have common ground with.

"People are persuaded by people they perceive to be like themselves," said Barbara O'Connor, director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media at California State University (search). "In a close race, it is this 'like' dimension that will make the difference. You want to make them look warm and fuzzy."

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (search) is partial to R&B singer Wyclef Jean and chocolate chip cookies, while North Carolina Sen. John Edwards (search) likes Bruce Springsteen and his mama's pecan pie. The experts say the answers can make the candidates seem more like the guys next door.

"Candidates are always looking for ways to connect with people and humanize themselves," said political consultant John Blackshaw, who was the late Sen. Paul Wellstone's campaign manager in 1990 and consulted Gov. Michael Dukakis when he ran for president in 1988. "There's no doubt these sorts of things are effective."

But many consultants and voters agree that Rev. Al Sharpton's (search) penchant for Southern cooking and distaste for sushi or Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich's (search) aversion to any non-vegan dishes probably won't sway decisions at the polls.

One undecided voter who attended a recent post-debate party for Edwards said candidates' personal preferences aren't going to influence his choice.

"I listen to the way they stand on certain issues and I make up my mind from there," said Chuck Hussion of Greenville, S.C. "You either like the guy or you know he's just not presidential."

Republican media consultant Tom Edmonds said he doesn't think voters pay any attention to frivolous facts about political candidates.

"I think it's silly," he said. "I don't think anyone is going to make a decision based on these things. It's just pure entertainment. It's taking politics and putting it into a pop culture format."

Besides, the experts ask, how would voters know whether the candidates are being honest about their preferences or are just trying to appeal to a certain segment of the population with their answers?

"Depending on the audience they're trying to reach, they're definitely going to cater the information to that specific audience," Toney said. "Someone is making an educated decision as to how this is going to affect voter appeal."

But other political consultants say it's not likely candidates are straying too far from the truth with answers about their favorite films of the last year, music they have in their CD players and food indulgences. Voters tend to be put off by candidates they perceive to be fake.

"It's always best to tell the truth and not make up something simply because you think it might be more appealing to a certain voter group," Blackshaw said. "The one thing that turns off voters is when they feel as if you're not being true to who you are."

After all, if candidates are caught in a lie about something like food and movies, there's no telling what other lies they might tell if they're elected.

"Lying about your personal preferences would not be a good thing," O'Connor said. "People would perceive you as a [jerk]."

Fox News' Yolanda Maggi contributed to this report.