If the Republican presidential candidate is to beat President Obama, he or she can't just win over Americans with the power of words or some bipartisan proposals -- there has to be a connection made on a deeper, gut level, even a hormonal level. We set out to find an objective answer to this question via the visible invisible hand of the personal picture marketplace known as HotOrNot.com. In this brutal free market, no paternalistic overlord exists to pick winners and losers. To get the masses' most accurate appraisal of each contender's hormonal appeal, we decided to use photos taken of the candidates in their youth, from before time and corn dogs could take their terrible toll.

In October, we entered the candidates through a painstaking process that required unique email addresses for each candidate. We tried our very best to sound like what we imagined authentic HotOrNotsters would sound like, sprinkling comments like "this is my fav yearbook pic lol" on the profiles and giving them non-Washington hometowns. Then this reporter's computer where all the login details were saved died and the whole experiment was pretty much forgotten while the Republican field languished for weeks, getting occasionally rated but unable to respond to inquiries from "hotmirers." Today, though, we remembered the username/password combo for Jon Huntsman, because he was named "Colby" (it's an inside joke) and were able to search for the rest by vaguely remembering their fake hometowns. So, here are the results. For political science. 

Ties were broken based on the number of votes.

The winner: Mitt Romney! He got 313 votes and a rating of 8.7. The future-former Massachusetts governor looks shockingly cool -- downright Don Draper -- with his skinny tie, slightly mussed hair, and casual smile. Look at how his shirt cuff sticks out of his jacket sleeve just so! How was Mitt Romney ever this cool? Good god, the man wears Tommy Bahama jeans these days. "Handsome!" one female user said. Raved another: "You are beautiful!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rick Perry came in second with 8.4 with 263 votes. Unlike Romney, Perry got comments from both men and women, such as "Hot aggie."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jon Huntsman came in third, getting 7.8 with 252 votes. Though he had many "hotmirers," he got no personal messages. Maybe the raters would think a little more highly of him if they knew he the dude cropped out of this photo was Ronald Reagan.

 

 

 

 

Michele Bachmann got 7.7 with 1,620 votes for fourth place. Bachmann got one of the lowest scores with this grainy yearbook photo -- one commenter suggested "You should add a newer photo." So congratulations, Rep. Bachmann: You didn't peak in high school.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Herman Cain got 7.7 out of 185 votes for fifth place. Note: We cropped this photo of Cain and his stylish glasses from his wedding photo, which was a lot less scandalous back in October, before we'd ever heard of Sharon Bialek or Ginger White.

 

 

 

 

 

Newt Gingrich got 7.7 out of 160 votes. Also, we didn't fool HotOrNot members, who seemed to be on to us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Regrettably, we were unable to rate Rick Santorum and Ron Paul, likely because of the photos we used. Paul's best non-military photo (his uniform looks too dated) probably looks too young. And Santorum's high school photo was so absurd, we think, that moderators could not take it seriously.