A lonely, middle-aged Mormon named Willard sat in one of his many bedrooms, gloomily studying the polls. No matter how he juggled the numbers -- a skill honed in the private equity biz -- he could not escape the inevitable conclusion: he was going to lose in November.
By all accounts, he should be wiping the floor with his opponent. The unemployment rate was still unacceptably high; the recovery had been tepid at best. But in one crucial area his adversary held a seemingly insurmountable lead: likeability. There was just something creepy about Willard.
"Socrates, Ben, what do you think I should do?"
Socrates and Ben were Willard's two closest friends and political advisors. He had known them since he was a boy, growing up in that dark, foreboding old governor's mansion, in the lap of luxury. Socrates was a small white rat; Ben was a large brown one.
"Go positive," Socrates squeaked in a high pitched squeak. "Say you're going to preserve the more popular provisions of Obamacare, like no exemptions for preexisting conditions. Say you'll allow abortions in cases of rape or incest or where the mother's life is threatened." He was a practical lab rat who had escaped from a dead-end job at NIMH and gone into the lucrative field of political operative.
"I can't do that," Willard said. "I'll lose the Republican base I need to get out the vote. I promised to repeal Obamacare day one. And no abortion, period."
"Go negative," Ben squeaked in a deeper squeak. "Imply Obama wasn't born in this country. Campaign with prominent birthers like Donald Trump." Ben was a big fan of the Donald; he saw much that was ratlike and admirable about him. Ben's secret ambition was to compete on Celebrity Apprentice. It's a rat race, isn't it?
"I can't go negative," Willard moaned. "I'll lose the independent voters in swing states I need to win."
Willard put his head in his hands, being careful not to muss his perfectly-pomaded hair. It was so unfair! After years of campaigning and hundreds of millions of dollars spent, he was so close to becoming President of the United States -- but not close enough. "I feel like a rat caught in a --"
"Don't say it!" Socrates and Ben squeaked simultaneously in terror.
Just then, there was a gentle knock on the door. His wife Ann came in. "Willard, are you alright? I thought I heard you talking to someone... ohhh!"
Ann froze in her tracks. She pasted that plastic smile on her face -- like she always did when she saw Willard's little friends. "Oh, I just remembered, I'm late for my dressage practice. The maid left dinner in the walk-in Sub-Zero refrigerator. I've got to go!" She beat a hasty retreat.
"Women!" Socrates squeaked after she had gone. "Can't live with them -- "
"Can't tear them apart," Ben squeaked. Willard had laid down strict -- even severely conservative -- rules: there was to be no tearing apart of Ann. Even when she got on his nerves. Which was getting to be more and more often.
"To get back to the matter at paw," Socrates squeaked, "we need to change the narrative, or you're going to lose the election."
"I have some ideas," Ben squeaked, "but it requires some black ops."
Willard stuck his well-manicured fingers in his patrician ears. "I don't want to know. I just want to be president. Is that so much to ask? Just do it."
Socrates twitched his whiskers in disgust. "Never send a man to do a rodent's job."
Sometime later a mysterious video appeared on the Internet. It depicted the Prophet Mohammed, blessed be his name, in an unflattering light. Riots, predictably, broke out throughout the Muslim world; U.S. embassy personnel were killed. The video was attributed to "Ima Rat," an obvious pseudonym.
The strangest thing about the amateurish video -- it was a Mickey Mouse production -- was the camera angle: it was shot entirely from the floor, looking up. And the actors' voices were dubbed in high-pitched, squeaky tones.
Willard wasted no time going on the offensive -- or being offensive. At a hastily gathered news conference in Boca Raton -- "the mouth of the rat" -- he said : "These riots are the direct results of my opponent's feckless foreign policy. When I'm president, I will never apologize for anything. Being the United States means never having to say you're sorry." Then he smirked his smug -- some would say sociopathic -- smirk, and started leaving the stage.
"I smell a rat," an activist in the audience said. "Two of them, in fact." He produced a video on his laptop showing Willard in a closed-door session with fat cat contributors referring to 47% of Americans as "worthless parasites feeding at the public trough -- fleas on the body politic."
"Cheese it! The jig is up!" Socrates squeaked, and bolted from Willard's breast pocket, where he had been disguised as a handkerchief.
"Relax, I got this," Ben squeaked, and leapt from Willard's back pocket, where he had been disguised as a spare hair piece for Trump. "Tear him up!
"Uh, guys, I don't think this is the best visual," Willard said. But he was too late: as the cameras kept rolling, an army of hungry rats swarmed over the stage and devoured the unfortunate activist.
This of course raised even more questions: "Willard, how long have you been taking orders from a pair of rats -- are they the Koch brothers? What are your views on rat population control? What is your policy concerning rats that may have entered this country illegally?"
"No comment," Willard said in vain. "I've already released two years of tax returns. That's all you need to know. I'll explain the army of rats after I'm in the White House."
In the end, Willard carried only Wisconsin. It turns out cheeseheads like rats (cf. Paul Ryan). Socrates went to work for Chris Christie 2016; he knew when to desert a sinking ship. Willard was forced to retreat to one of his five mansions, where he sat dejectedly with Ben, listening to old Michael Jackson records, and dreaming of what might have been:
Ben the two of us need look no more
We both found what we were looking for
With a friend to call my own I'll never be alone
And you my friend will see you've got a friend in me...