Malcolm asks the question of the day: What goes down smoother than a campaign promise?

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Chicken McNugget

How can you tell we're in the thick of the primary season?

Simple: When a politician gets behind a microphone, he's going to talk about change. Guaranteed.

What sort of change?

Whatever suits your fancy, big guy.

Even so, this season has brought a bumper crop of change-speak. Charted along a Cartesian graph, it looks something like the front end of a bell curve. In the first Democratic debate (you know, the one that included Mike Gravel), the eight assembled politicians used the c-word 28 times. That's an average of 3.5 uses per candidate. Now, compare that to the New Hampshire debate, in which the four remaining candidates bandied the word a whopping 80 times. That's a nearly 500 percent increase per candidate!

The Republicans are more reticent. During their first debate, the ten candidates mentioned change a meager sixteen times — a number further diluted by quips like "I'd be happy to change the Constitution for Governor Schwarzenegger," (Duncan Hunter), and "[I] changed my mind and said I'm pro-life," (Mitt Romney) and, of course "we went to Washington to change Washington. Washington changed us" (Fred Thompson).

But that was then. By the time the Republicans debated in New Hampshire, the 6 remaining candidates mentioned change 33 times, averaging of 5.5 mentions per candidate.

Yep, change is in the air. So who can blame McDonald's for getting in on the action? Its new campaign, test-marketed in the bellwether state of Missouri, promises that the fast food giant will "Turn Your Change Into Chicken."

Yes, for a mere 25 cents, Missourians can purchase a single Chicken McNugget.

It's sounds like quite a deal, and I was sure it was only a matter of time before they took this winner national. That is, it sounded like quite a deal until I reintroduced myself to the McNugget.

Like so many campaign promises, it turns out there's not much new here. The golden pucks are still formed to look more like a rhomboid than the product of any naturally occurring poultry muscle. Their insides are still made of an air bubble-rich chicken paste that's been rubberized in the deep fryer and the "crispy" exterior still wraps the product like a poorly blocked sweater.

Still, drench the thing in a tub of barbecue sauce and chase it with an orange Fanta, and a McNugget goes down smoother than an empty promise.

We're sure to hear a whole lot more about change in the coming months. Let's just hope it doesn't turn into chicken.

Seen a foodstuff you're too timid to try? Malcolm will eat it! E-mail particulars to [email protected].

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