In today’s breakfast-cereal age, there are two types of people in the world, those who like to look into their bowl at a sea of desiccated marshmallows, and those who prefer an unsweetened alternative made from whole-grain oats. I call them the Lucky Charmers and the Cheerioians.

Lucky Charmers hold their spoons overhand-style and make slurping noises as they eat. Sometimes, they even try to pluck the marshmallows out with their fingers, because the marshmallows bob up and down in the milk, which makes it very hard to get them out with just a spoon. Sometimes, they don’t even pour the cereal into a bowl and eat right out of the box.

Cheerioians, on the other hand, often eat their cereal entirely unadorned, even with sliced banana or strawberries. They use bowls from Pottery Barn, hold their spoons correctly, and read a major metropolitan newspaper or watch cable news while eating their breakfast cereal. They are lured by the boxes that promise lower cholesterol or healthier colons. They often drink orange juice from a glass, or coffee out of a mug.

Lucky Charmers prefer apple juice and drink out of a sippy cup. On occasion, they will even fling their cereal bowl over their heads and shriek, “Wheeeeeeeee!” They are free spenders, preferring a wind-up toy to a money-saving coupon in the bottom of the box. They watch SpongeBob, during which they giggle.

Sometimes, a Cheerioian will abandon cereal altogether and grab a bagel as they run out the door. Increasingly often, the Cheerioian won’t even have time for breakfast. A Lucky Charmer who has skipped breakfast is nothing to trifle with.

A close look by a disarming columnist/commentator/author at the issues facing the candidates this year shows that one of these groups may decide the upcoming election. That group is the Cheerioians, because the Lucky Charmers are six years old, and therefore cannot vote. More importantly, they can’t read my columns, which unerringly describe the shape and fabric of the America that exists inside my own head.

Not only are Lucky Charmers and Cheerioians moving apart; they were never particularly close together. Cheerioians are getting older, while the Lucky Charmers remain trapped in their arrested development.

There was a time in all of our lives when we were Lucky Charmers, when we could ignore the consequences of a morning sucrose bomb on our metabolism, our dental health, our fight against Islamic terrorism. But now, post-9/11, we find ourselves heading into a more serious and sober world, a world where we can no longer turn away from the empty promises of artificially sweetened candy passing itself off as a healthy breakfast. The Lucky Charmers have fallen prey to a sham, a mirage of empty promises of a simpler, magically delicious world coming out of the mouths of leprechauns, like Howard Dean. It’s no accident that the Dean candidacy crashed more quickly than a hypoglycemic’s blood sugar. Green clovers and yellow moons are not going to win the war on terror. Purple horseshoes either.

(Though it looks as though we could use a few more pots of gold to aid in the reconstruction of Iraq.)

I have been critical of President Bush, not because I have actual convictions, but because I have a pathological need to seem reasonable. But I have looked into President Bush’s pantry, and I see a man who would go on the offense against Count Chocula, the Boo Berry ghost, or the Cookie Crisp wizard.

My hunch is that John Kerry eats pastry.

Finally, all of us need to keep an eye on that Trix rabbit, a known election tamperer. Trix may be for kids, but voting is for grownups who agree with me.