Hug It Out! McCain Brings a New Level of Affection to Politics

It's one small squeeze for woman, one giant leap for hug-kind. I didn't believe the prevalence of the McCain/Palin embrace until I went searching for pictures — and found the mother lode of warm greetings. The second mixed-gender ticket in history is breaking the boundaries of the cold handshake with a now signature — yet brief and businesslike — clinch.

What a change from 1984, when candidate Walter Mondale had a strict look-don't-touch policy with his running mate, Geraldine Ferraro — so much so that he didn't even put palm to back when the two stood side by side on stage, with waving arms high. Ferraro remembers, “people were afraid that it would look like, ‘Oh, my God, they’re dating.’ ”

While Palin gets the hugs, Cindy gets the smooches — and now the first introduction — when they're all on stage together. To see how that evolved, and who disapproves, read more.

Campaign advisors say all of the affection rules have evolved on the trail naturally, but some etiquette experts disagree. The former White House social secretary under Jacqueline Kennedy says, "He's hugging her to show the world that he’s all for her, and protecting her, but she doesn’t need that."

The McCain/Palin hugs, of course, have a chaste distance to them — or as Christopher Buckley mused, “As the nuns used to say before school dances, 'Leave room for the Holy Ghost.'" Is there enough room? Does all the hugging make you warm and fuzzy — or is he treating (and greeting) her differently because she's a gal?