American politics has devolved. There's more proper critiquing in a dog show then election campaigns, and political candidates have become products for the media to sell; rather than focusing on important issues, it boils down to whose American flag pin is larger.
In a society that provides more votes to reality tv shows than a ballot box, politics is a hard sell. So to advertise the product campaigns will stoop to the lowest means by labeling and creating an image of the candidate (ie. Obama's "Hope" poster). They will create the lowest intellectual stimulus to affect someone's vote; who's more likable? who's tougher? who's younger? who's more handsome? Image is everything in politics today.
Relating to a candidate is important, just as it's important for the candidate to be "in touch" with the voters. So in a sense, political theatre isn't so bad. It's just how far some are willing to take/view it. Focusing on candidate backgrounds, characters and personable traits doesn't reflect the platform that candidate is putting forward. So if you focus less on the individual and more on the party he/she represents, you'll be able to see the important issues and provide a proper critique of the candidate. Political theatre shouldn't be the determining factor of voter preference, but rather a complement to a product being sold (candidates policies, etc.).
So to answer your question, I vote based on what I consider essential: policy. We democratically elect those in office that would best represent our needs, wants and values. And in my case, I need/want/value a stable, just and transparent government that respects the middle-class, offers support for the needy and limit the power of the corporate world.