Ever since I read Timothy Crouse's "The Boys on the Bus" and Hunter Thompson's "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72" about ten years ago, presidential campaign press coverage has fascinated me.
Until this year.
I'm not sure if candidates have always repeated the same stump speech near-verbatim at each rally (probably so), but how interesting could it possibly be to follow a candidate across America to watch him (or her) give the same speech regardless of whether they're speaking to steelworkers in Tampa or shrimp fisherman in Pittsburgh?
Short of catching a candidate or one of his or her supporters saying something stupid (which has been happening quite frequently of late), there's almost no point in covering these campaigns.
First, who actually attends these campaign events? The short answer is: people who already agree with the candidate. It's not like any presidential candidate of the past twenty years (at least) has to convince the people listening to him or her speak to vote for the candidate. Hell, Bush's re-election campaign in 2004 occasionally required attendees to sign loyalty oaths, and at one rally attendees actually recited a "Bush pledge."
This isn't Illinois and it certainly isn't 1858, and Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas aren't walking through that door trying to win a vote. Today's candidates stage choreographed routines, and they're speaking to people who will already vote for them, or in some cases are already going to vote against them no matter what is said.
Yeah, yeah, I know, the candidates are firing up their base to get out and canvas for them. But for all the rallies held in Florida this election year, and in Tampa specifically, I've seen one person going door-to-door (for Obama), and that was yesterday.
And the media has to cover every one of these events. What's so interesting about that?
Nothing. Sure, candidates will slip up and say something stupid from time to time. But for all the "liberals hate real Americans" (North Carolina Representative Robin Hayes, at a McCain rally on Saturday) moments there's ten or twenty "palling around with terrorists" moments.
It's rote. It's boring.
Quite frankly, it's not worth the coverage.
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