Should America Root for the Washington Nationals?

It is enough, though, to wake Washington out of a longstanding sports slumber that two decades of Redskins futility have brought.

And it may be enough to offer some lessons for official Washington:

Money matters: but you can't buy the prize: The Lerner family has proven to be generous, though certainly not reckless, owners. They've spent money to help Rizzo build a franchise, and mostly they've assembled a young core of players through the draft and savvy trades. (Meg Whitman and the Boston Red Sox could learn a thing or two.)

Seasoning counts: Candidates who burst onto the national stage without doing the right kind of groundwork typically fizzle. It's taken the Nats nearly two presidential terms in town to challenge for the big prize of a playoff spot. (Take note, Herman Cain; take heart, Rick Santorum.)

Gaffes hurt: The "Natinals" jersey that made it onto the field in 2009 is the franchise's Etch A Sketch moment and then some. (That's an "oops" that would make Rick Perry blush.)

The two-party system rules: The presidents race nightly at Nationals Park, and the one ex-president who tried to form a third party to win his old job back, Teddy Roosevelt">Teddy Roosevelt, famously never, ever won. (Sorry, Michael Bloomberg.)

Support by the establishment helps: Season ticket-holders include Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and George Will, the columnist/baseball scribe. That's a serious double-play combination.

Politics hates early front-runners. But even wounded veterans of the sports hell that has been Washington in recent decades are starting to think this franchise has more staying power than Michele Bachmann or Donald Trump.

For the team, winning would make good on the promise Washington offered in luring baseball back to town -- uniting a capital city that sometimes seems hopelessly divided.

"We're the only ones who can claim to the national pastime in the nation's capital," said Len Sanderson, a Nationals spokesman.

For the fans, it's something more.

"If they put a good team out there that has good guys and good stories -- which they have -- America could fall in love the Nationals," said Bob Heckman, 59, a transplanted New Yorker who co-founded the DC Baseball Society, a group of D.C.-area baseball fans who gather regularly for games and smart talk about them.

Enough to make America love Washington?

"No," Heckman conceded. "I've been here 34 years, and I'm still not in love with Washington."

One game at a time.

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