John McCaslin

Nothing is free anymore — even the bumper sticker declaring your support for a particular presidential candidate, who, we add, receives in return not only your hard-earned cash, but free publicity wherever your vehicle travels.

Are we wrong here, or shouldn't the candidates being paying us for the free ride — or at least offering their stickers and balloons for free?

Take New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's suddenly uphill climb toward the White House. Bumper stickers purchased through her official campaign store cost $3 each. But what if supporters go so far as to host campaign receptions in their private homes?

For $80, Mrs. Clinton offers a "Dorm Party Pack" — 10 campaign buttons, 20 bumper stickers and one pack of 20 balloons. Otherwise, $265 will buy a "House Party" package: one baseball cap, one travel mug, five lapel pins, 25 bumper stickers, 25 campaign buttons, 10 rally signs, 10 yard signs and one pack of 20 balloons.

Hillary or Bill?

So is the discussion confined to politics when "house parties" are held for the various presidential candidates?

Of course not. Consider the invitation to the party Claire Balcerzak is hosting this coming Saturday evening in her Adams Morgan apartment for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton: "There will also be plenty of conversation about ... what Heath Ledger's relationship with Mary Kate Olsen is."

(Well, in that case, put us down as attending. But don't count on Ted Kennedy being there).

Then there's the upcoming house party for Mrs. Clinton hosted by Ilene Freed in her Cabin John home. Her honestly worded invitation reads: "House Party for Hillary and/or Bill."

Ms. Freed admits it's also her "58th birthday and I couldn't think of a better way to spend it than with Hillary. I was fortunate enough to meet her at a D.C. restaurant one evening, but would love to have the opportunity to let her know that I took her suggestion and became actively involved in her campaign."

The hostess adds that her house can easily accommodate 100-plus people. And don't forget to bring a birthday gift.

Do we care?

"Climate change may be a top issue in the minds of California voters, but so far it's played only a cameo role in this year's presidential race. The League of Conservation Voters has been tracking the number of questions asked of the presidential candidates on the Sunday news shows and the debates televised by the major networks. Of the more than 2,900 questions asked, only four have mentioned the words 'global warming.' "

— Zachary Coile, San Francisco Chronicle, Jan. 27, 2008

Reagan's role

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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