And guess who smokes?

Barack Obama.

As the scrutiny of every little detai about the junior senator from Illinois begins, Michael Currie Schaffer writes in The New Republic that Obama’s nicotine habit could furnish a welcome populist touch in a party infamous for upscale, Whole(Foods)ier-Than-Thou elitism:

[A]mong the healthy living smart-set types who represent the elite of both the Democratic Party and the American meritocracy, smokers are about as common as guys with mustaches. [ … ]

Maureen Dowd wrote on Saturday that the smoking habit was an example of how the senator was “intriguingly imperfect,” a description that was never applied to the likes of Al Gore of John Kerry. Actuarially foolish and hopelessly out of fashion, it is a behavior that, at least in an overachiever like Obama, seems to assuage our national discomfort with overt ambition. [ … ]

Which is why it was sort of disappointing to read a recent interview in which Obama claimed to have quit except for the occasional lapse. Though it was better than hearing him declare that he’d never inhaled, it sounded like the first step toward some eventual mealy-mouthed declaration that he voted for nicotine before be voted against it. “It’s an ongoing struggle,” Obama said.

I think that’s even better as a political attribute. To be an unapologetic puffer would be too downscale, and slightly unclean. To be a priggish, disapproving abstainer would be too too John Kerry. But constantly struggling to quit — that’s something everybody can identify with.

Politics “For a Democrat who wants to run in 2008, smoking may well...