Could Newt Gingrich win California? Would Michelle Obama outperform her husband? Does Ron Paul really have a chance at the White House?

A new strategy game, The Political Machine 2012 (Stardock Entertainment, $9.95), attempts to make this year’s electoral maneuvering palatable by putting the gamer in charge. Players choose from various political figures and oversee state-by-state presidential politics.

Playing against the computer or another player, you buy ads, give interviews, seek endorsements, and decide where to give speeches (and on which subjects; marijuana legalization is one option). The cartoonish, bobble-headed candidates have personal statistics that quantify their strengths and weaknesses. (Paul supporters will be pleased by his high intelligence score.) Stamina and fund raising skills seem to be the most valuable traits, making it tough for candidates whose strengths lie elsewhere to win—a design decision that sadly reflects reality.