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by TED S. McGREGOR JR. & r & & r & The Balloonies, Part Two & r & & r & Now that we have our presidential nominees, it's time to take a look back at some of the highlights of the primary election season with the Balloonies (as in, hot air -- get it?), our awards for excellence in political theater. Last week we gave out our GOP awards; now it's the Democrats' turn.

Best Illustration of Two Americas

The revelation that John Edwards paid $400 for a haircut left no doubt about which side of the American divide he lives on. Still, he was wriggling free just fine until somebody released a video (damn you, YouTube!) of him excessively primping that same head of hair. But let's face it -- he's got really nice hair.

Best Use of Planned Spontaneity

After losing in Iowa, with a must-win moment looming in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton just lost control when she talked about how darn much this country really means to her. Just lucky for her, the cameras caught the tears falling, and she won the state.

Best Proof of the Old Adage

Joe Biden and Chris Dodd -- exhibits A and B proving that, indeed, nice guys do finish last.

Best Desperation Ploy for Media Coverage

Diminutive Dennis Kucinich was foundering the rocks of the margin of error for zero percent of the vote when he latched onto a brilliant idea: Tell reporters about the time he saw that UFO. Not enough? Add in that it happened while hanging out with Shirley MacLaine. And that whole "I-don't-know-what-I-saw-but-I-saw-something" line? Perfect. That, future campaign managers, is how you get a 0.3 percent bump in the polls.

Best "Et Tu?" Moment

Bill Richardson for shivving Hillary Clinton by endorsing Barack Obama -- after he watched the Super Bowl with Bill.

Best Encore

When Rev. Jeremiah Wright's crazed sermons made the news, Obama had to scramble to denounce, condemn and throw Wright under the bus. Whew! But just when it seemed like it had all gone away, Wright came back for his second 15 minutes of fame. Now the GOP is hoping for yet another curtain call. Is the good reverend free in, say, late October?
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