10/23/2012 03:24 pm ET Updated Dec 23, 2012

The Invisible Canine Constituency

I couldn't have been more stunned. There, standing at my kitchen sink, hands immersed in a tiny mountain of suds, was Paul Ryan!

"What are you doing here?" I asked.

"Making a quick campaign swing through your neighborhood," he answered cheerfully, "and it combines symbolism with substance. The detergent washes away greasy residue on your pots and pans, just as Mitt Romney and I will strip fat and grime off the federal budget so our fiscal future is bright and shiny again!"

No, it didn't really happen, but this scenario is one of many that raced through my mind in the aftermath of Ryan's recent dishwashing stint at a dining hall in Ohio.

The visit caused a lot of debate, much of which focused on whether the items Ryan scrubbed were truly dirty to begin with. But hey, who among us hasn't accidentally washed dishes that were already clean?

With a little more thought, however, the event could have worked in Ryan's favor big time. If his advisors had come to me for advice I would have said, "Look, kitchen duty doesn't resonate with average voters anymore. You need to pivot in a new direction. Have him show up at a typical family's house and help them wash their DOG!"

For millions of Americans pets play an important role in everyday life but politically they're invisible. Sooner or later some aspiring office seeker will realize that a bonanza of support is waiting for the person who finds a way to bring our furry friends into the election narrative. You think this sounds ridiculous? Take a look into the past and you'll find significant historical precedent for having a canine companion on the campaign trail. Meriwether Lewis was accompanied by a Newfoundland named Seaman on the Voyage of Discovery. If TV had existed in those days that dog would have become an instant celebrity.

I can envision 'Bring Your Barking Friend' rallies at neighborhood parks becoming a normal part of the campaign schedule along with buttons, bandanas and other endorsement accessories that dogs can wear.

Elections are all about connecting with voters and the canine population in this country offers a direct connection into a gigantic number of households. The opportunity for pet-savvy candidates is obvious: dogs are a powerful political force just waiting to be unleashed.