Friday, January 23, 2004

The Kerry Nightmare

Veteran reporters and commentators who watched last night's debate in New Hampshire agree that Kerry emerged unscathed and therefore the winner (in political terms). Clark was awful, Dean was qualudian, Edwards reinforced the idea that he's not quite ready for prime time and Sharpton was (and is) a fool.

So the take-away was Kerry is going to win the New Hampshire primary. If he does, then all the money will start flowing his way and it will be very hard to deny him the nomination.

This is a grim prospect for veteran reporters/columnists. I would venture to guess that 85% of them would vote against Bush in virtually every hypothetical (save Sharpton). But I would also guess that 85% of them can't stand Kerry. So their mood is sour.

Why don't they like Kerry? Because they think he's a pompous phony. The new phrase making the rounds is "Gulfstream populist" (his wife, Theresa, owns a private plane). And they're tired of the whole Vietnam schtick. They heard it in his Congressional race back in the seventies, in the race against Ray Shamie in 1984, in the race against Weld in 1996 and they're hearing it again in Iowa and New Hampshire. And they're just sick to death of it and of him.

The younger men and women of the political press corps, who haven't been through the Kerry grind for more than three decades, don't share this sense of "I can't believe I'm going to be stuck with this guy for another 300 days." They're chipper! The race, they say, is wide open. And maybe it is.

But the veteran scribes have that nagging feeling, based on years of experience, that if Kerry wins New Hampshire, then the game is over. And they will be consigned to a special kind of hell; writing about someone they can't stand personally running against someone they oppose (not that they're not objective!) politically.