Monday, January 26, 2004

Scribes in Crisis; From Retail to Wholesale

It's clear that the national political press corps is flummoxed by New Hampshire. They have no idea what's going on, although they all agree that Kerry will win. Novak has been reduced to quoting "an elderly couple" in his hotel lobby. The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal both seem whipsawed by all the tracking polls.

When in doubt, resort to tired cliches and The Big Picture! The tired cliche is that after the New Hampshire primary, the campaign is no longer "retail," it's "wholesale." No kidding! The Big Picture is that after New Hampshire, the candidates have to pick and choose their spots, because starting next week, the game speeds up and the territory expands exponentially. No kidding! Also in today's papers, the obligatory David Rogers valentine to Senator John Kerry. No kidding! You can look it up.

My guess is that by tomorrow night, the scribes will give Kerry a "big" victory if he's in the mid-to-high thirties and runs ahead of whomever by a double-digit margin. On the other hand, a result of, say, Kerry 30%, Dean 23%, etcetera is not going to be well received. The scribes get grumpy when the results are cloudy! And they tend to punish winners for not making their job easier.

Unlike Republican primaries, where what the scribes say is meaningless (who cares what a bunch of liberal reporters think -- not that they're not objective), Democrat primary voters take the scribes seriously -- they're on their side! So what the scribes say matters down the line, when the campaign shifts from -- you guessed it -- retail to wholesale.