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Candidates Hit The Smile Circuit

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., hugging his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry, left, poses with Dr. Phil McGraw and his wife Robin, right, after taping the "Dr. Phil" show Saturday, Sept. 18, 2004, in Boston. The show aired Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2004.
AP/Kerry-Edwards 2004
The hard sell - we've seen it. Sometimes the soft sell works better, or so they say. With that in mind, the Kerrys and the Bushes bared their thoughts on "Dr. Phil," Laura Bush kidded around with Jay Leno, and John Edwards joined the guest list for "Live with Regis and Kelly" and "The View."

The First Lady kept it light Wednesday night as she sat by Leno in what was her third appearance on "The Tonight Show" since George W. Bush became president.

Sen. John Kerry hasn't skipped the late night circuit, either - he was on "Late Night with David Letterman" last month.

Avoiding the flashpoint topic of Iraq, Mrs. Bush talked with Leno about her hairstyle, her daughters, and her feelings about pontificating pundits, saying she knows what to do about loudmouths on TV: "I turn them off," she said, matter-of-factly.

The former teacher and librarian also said she feels a campaign trail kinship with Teresa Heinz Kerry.

"I really do feel we are members of a club," said the First Lady. "We are the only ones who know right now what it's like for your husband to run for president in 2004. I'm sure we'd have a lot to talk about."

"I could tell we had a lot in common. We even chose the same color suits to wear," said Mrs. Bush, commenting on the nearly matching outfits the two women wore to the first of the presidential debates.

In an apparent attempt to avoid a fashion faux pas after the second debate Friday in St. Louis, she announced, with a wry smile, that she "will be wearing a blue suit on Friday night."

Teresa Heinz Kerry most likely had her mind on other matters Wednesday, as the widely-viewed advice show "Dr. Phil" broadcast an hour-long interview with the Kerrys, a week after airing an interview with President and Mrs. Bush.

In both cases, the guests were interviewed by talk show host Phil McGraw and his wife, Robin, with questions aimed at showing what kind of men the candidates are in their personal lives, especially in regard to their families.

The Kerrys discussed raising children through politics, turmoil and tragedy - for him, a divorce, and for her, the death of her first husband - and the challenge of blending their families after entering what was a second marriage for both.

Kerry has two daughters, Alexandra and Vanessa. Heinz Kerry has three sons - John, Andre and Chris. All of their children are now in their 20s and 30s.

"When you come together, you have to learn how to let everybody's choices work for everybody," Kerry said. "And I'd be crazy if I didn't say there aren't at times a clash of those choices, but then you learn also how to work through those things, and that's exactly what everybody has done."

Kerry opened up some about the divorce in 1988 from his first wife, Julia Thorne. Kerry said together they reassured their daughters, then 9 and 6, that they would be there for them.

"We made choices that did that," Kerry said. "I know my ex-wife did that in spades. I mean, she did an incredible job of mothering. She really did. She put the time and the energy and all of this effort into it. And she made up for a lot of my deficits, frankly. And I have to acknowledge that."

Kerry said he was nervous about remarrying. He said Heinz Kerry didn't have as much trepidation because of the success of her 27-year marriage to Pennsylvania Republican Sen. John Heinz, who was killed in a 1991 plane crash.

Heinz Kerry said she was strict raising her boys.

"I was a witch with my children, truly, about television," she said, explaining their viewing was restricted to mostly educational programs. They were allowed to watch some programs of their own choosing, but to do so, they also had to write a one-paragraph report on why they liked the program.

Heinz Kerry said her sons have expressed their admiration for her in her new role on the campaign trail, and have been supportive when she is criticized for voicing her opinions.

"This campaign has really given my boys a chance to see their mother in a situation that isn't mom at home, mom being wife, mom being cook, mom being mom, being the witch of the household," she said. "It's, all of a sudden, it's mom out there, really taking it in the chops every now and then."