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Stateside with Rosalea: Taking a flying leap

Stateside with Rosalea: 2004 Presidential Election

Taking a flying leap

By Rosalea Barker

That George is such a dag, isn't he, pretending to fall off the Pratmobile! I'm sure he was just taking its inventor's advice - given at a recent college commencement ceremony - to make it your choice in life to do something really, really difficult. Whatever. It was tghe sort of publicity that cannot be bought. We hope.

Meanwhile, Senator John Kerry - running second to Dick Gephardt as the Democrat hopeful - swanned around Milwaukee on a hog, as shown in a 'This Week' segment on ABC, but didn't go to the Harley-Davidson factory, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. Maybe he's going to the party there at the end of August. It was a very quick trip to Wisconsin, where he spoke to a meeting of Democrats who also heard from Howard Dean (currently third in the race). A straw poll at the end of the meeting had Dean with 203 votes and Kerry with 50.

Dean will formally declare his candidacy on June 23rd, but he has made much of his vote against giving the White House open-ended authorisation to attack Iraq, so he doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell as events in the Middle East, well, snowball. He likes to say he's from the democratic wing of the Democrats, a phrase picked up on by Slate columnist William Saletan last Friday.

Saletan contrasted it to Bob Graham's claim that he's from the electable wing of the Democratic Party. Saletan interprets this as meaning Graham is a centrist, but Graham himself explained it early in his campaign as meaning he's from the South, which is where the majority of US presidents are from.

A couple of presidents have been from up north in Ohio, and Mark Morford, a columnist on SFGate, this week thought that perhaps another from there would be a good thing. Dennis Kucinich is certainly getting a lot of attention from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party - the kind that reads the books of Studs Terkel, who interviewed Kucinich back in the days when he was mayor of Cleveland twenty-four years ago. Morford's column has a link to this interview, which was reprinted in 'The Nation' in April 2002.

You only have to look at the various candidate websites to see the extensive role the internet will play in how these campaigns all pan out. But the bottom line is that candidates need to raise about $70,000 a day to be in the race, if the figure given on this morning's 'This Week' is accurate. I remain unconvinced that this is any way to run a democracy.

The creator of 'This Week' died this week, so there has been a number of eulogies about him. He also created the one-hour news format back in the days when he worked for NBC. David Brinkley is said to have been more widely known by the American public than the Beatles, something he felt got in the way of his journalism especially when he was on the road with political candidates who were sometimes ignored by a public wanting to see Brinkley.

For the voter, it is a difficult job combing through the layers of information and commentary that comes from tv, radio, print and the internet. And if you go to the primary source - the candidate's own webpages - you're in Spinsville, hometown to the ambitious young kids spewing out of university polisci departments and clawing their way into a job, and to the long-time spinmeisters who've already served their apprenticeship.

That's why public appearances with important constituencies (such as fellow veterans, in Kerry's case) are so important. Like the song says: just give me ten of your stout-hearted men and I'll soon give you ten thousand more. Same goes for the well-heeled matrons who arrange for candidates' private appearances with party faithful, raising funds and support. Without them, prospective presidential candidates might as well go take a flying leap.

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