From the initial television commentary and news coverge, it looks like the story for this campaign is still very much up for grabs.  The talking heads, even the 'liberal' ones are running in circles around three non-questions: (1) are the Democrats being negative? (2) do people care about John Kerry or just about beating Bush? and (3) are the Democrats really unified?

These are neither legitimate horse race questions nor interesting political ideas.  They are the sound of journalists who don't feel they can discuss the message being presented without appearing biased, un-incisive, or boring.  It's not a very promising start.

Perhaps one of the biggest strikes against the Democrats from the outset is that the substantive debates seem to follow more easily from Bush's self aggrandizing than Kerry's.  Bush says something about smoking people out of their holes, and the mainstream media asks "What do we do about terror?"  Kerry talks about repairing alliances and wars of choice and the media asks "Is he a hypocrite for voting for the war resolution?" and "Did he really just call Bush a liar?"

It is the Al Gore (and Clinton before him) syndrome, and it appears ripe for resurrection.  Part of it is certainly the disciplined Republican mockery machine (Glenn Reynolds, for instance, appears to have spent the day looking for goofy pictures of Kerry) but part of it is those good ol' liberal journalists, who, unable to actually disagree with the premises of a candidates' policies they are sympathetic with, invent narratives about a candidates' failed personal psychology and the pitiful pathologies of his supporters instead.  Not to speak to soon, and I generally really like Saletan, but his convention blogging tonight seemed right on pitch for this sort of thing.



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