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Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Hello, New Hampshire. Are you glad it's over? Do you want your TV programs back? Are you tired of hearing about polls and momentum and image and "message" and the other fluff of electoral politics? Were you able to figure out if there's any real difference among the candidates on the issues that really matter? (Other than Lieberman on one end and Kucinich on the other, that is.)

Like everything else about modern U.S. politics, election results are all about perception. Well, I guess you can't say that about the actual final election itself (or can you, Florida 2000?), but it's certainly true of presidential primaries. A win can be a loss, and a loss can be a win.

It changes every week, though, especially during this early period of the campaign. It's tempting to say that in John Kerry's case, a win in New Hampshire is a win. He was way behind Howard Dean in the polls just a few weeks ago, and he won by a wide margin.

Not as wide a margin as some the late polling predicted, though. So is it a win or a loss? It's sort of like the Oscar race. The front-runner now might not even finish. At least with the Oscars, we only have to wait a month. This primary thing, unless somebody wins three or four weeks in a row (and right now Kerry is the only one with a shot), could drag on.

Kerry now has the advantage of being the front-runner and hearing his name first in newscasts and seeing his picture on magazine covers. Dean has a more subtle advantage of being the former front-runner who says he's still optimistic and he won't slow down or change his message or back off from telling the truth as he sees it. There's something commendable about that, too.

If the perception among Democratic voters is that Kerry can beat Bush, he'll probably keep the momentum he gained in Iowa and tonight. On the other hand, it's not easy being the front runner. Everybody wants a piece of you. Too many people want you to fail. The microscope is unforgiving, unless you're Bill Clinton. And there's no Clinton, Bill or otherwise, in this campaign.

23 January 2004

Clouds, trees, utility poles.

There are some very good men in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. (No women, alas.) I just hope they don't all do each other in, so that there's nobody left standing at the end but Fortinbras.

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As for the Oscars, of all the nominated films, I've seen exactly three. One of them is A Mighty Wind, which is nominated for the song "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow." Another is Whale Rider, for which its young star Keisha Castle-Hughes is a best actress nominee. The third is Finding Nemo, which has a fair chance of winning something. I'm ashamed to say I have a lot of catching up to do. I was in a much better position to make predictions last year at this time. (On the other hand, there are strong front-runners in all the major categories, as far as I can tell. We'll see how "momentum" holds in those cases.)

Recent recommendations can always be found on the links page.

One year ago: Checks and Balances
"He took advantage of the situation by making it easier for his government to silence unpopular opinion and ignore the rights of individuals."

Two years ago: Shriveled
"Now I'm taking up half the couch, and if I don't get my furnace fixed tomorrow as promised, I'll probably slide down between the cushions with the stale popcorn and the rusty old pennies."

Three years ago: Fixing a Hole
"So really, don't bother. Keep doing what you're doing. Whatever, it's no skin off."

Four years ago: Welcome to My New Home
"As imperfect a man as Clinton is, he has brought people into government who have improved how it looks and how it relates to those of us who believe in one human race."

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Nobody's right if everybody's wrong.