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"Honestly, this was the inaugural parade we all envisioned," said Donna Brazile, his former campaign manager. "Gore's political stock is hot right now. I don't know if I would cash in now with so many players still on stage."
It went on like this all year, ramping up when Gore released his mildly deranged book on politics and when he won the Nobel Prize. The book, if anyone cared to read it, compared the media's gullibility to the ease with which chickens can be hypnotized.
4.) Sam Brownback will matter. Long before he declared for president, the political press corps were eyeing Kansas's born-again Catholic fundamentalist like a scout who'd heard some high school senior was the next LeBron James. In January of 2006, Jeff Sharlet reported in Rolling Stone that "the nation's leading evangelicals" had "lined up" behind Brownback and "as the candidate of the Christian right, he may well be in a position to determine who does, and what they include in their platform."
It never happened and for two reasons: Brownback was Brownback and Mike Huckabee was Mike Huckabee. Brownback fit into a comfortable media mold, filled out previously by pols like Rick Santorum: the holy roller who weaves together Christianity and right-wing public policy and chills secularists down to the base of their spines. Huckabee had (and has) no such long-term plans. He's interested in what works and what's good for Mike Huckabee, not necessarily in that order, and he's a lazy fundraiser. But Brownback had no personality, and Huckabee could sell bottled water to Amy Winehouse. Republicans proved more interested in an evangelical candidate they liked than an evangelical candidate with ideas.
And Brownback's anti-momentum has transitive properties. On November 7, Brownback endorsed John McCain: Noam Scheiber of The New Republic called it "a boost" that would give McCain an Iowa organization and speed the flow of white evangelicals who "have been moving toward McCain lately at a surprisingly strong clip." Then came the Huckaboom. Over the last month McCain's Iowa polling strength has dipped from around 8 percent to around 6 percent.
5.) John McCain is the GOP frontrunner and the natural heir to Bush. Fittingly, the story of the McCain campaign can be told in two glossy magazines—Esquire and GQ—that have perfected the art of the journalistic man-crush. In late 2006, Esquire gave McCain a glowing cover story, headlined "One of Us," casting his final run for the GOP run as a hero's quest and all the human impediments like smartass young voters or religious GOP leaders as patches in the Slough of Despond.
That's why John McCain would like to tell you a story—and why he would like for you to listen to it—his story of countrymen and friendship, of reconciliation with David Ifshin and with Vietnam, the country that saw to it that he would never again be able to comb his own hair, and he would like to tell you that all wounds can heal, that all memories can be made good, and that every state can be New Hampshire, in the middle of summer, enjoying an ice-cream social with Senator John McCain. And because of who he is—or perhaps because he is saying exactly what you need to hear—you're inclined to believe him and to believe that he's correct.
The whole article was basically like that.
Everybody's working theory was that McCain would hire as many Bush bagmen and kiss however many religious right rings as he needed to in order to win the nomination, but that this would be OK, because he was the same guns-a-blazin' maverick that the press corps fell in love with seven years ago. Cue: implosion. The story of McCain's fall was finally told by Robert Draper in GQ, and it turned out that McCain's smart hires and organizing had the twin effects of burning through his campaign funds and turning the media against him.
6.) Ron Paul's run will be bad for libertarians. No one, literally no one, has been shocked at the success of Ron Paul's presidential bid like Ron Paul himself. Looking out at rallies of 5,000 people, watching $4.3 million in donations pile up in one day, being told that a blimp bearing his name will be hovering over Washington, Paul often looks as if expecting someone to point out the hidden camera and live studio audience.
In April, Cato's David Boaz looked upon Paul's fundraising numbers and despaired:
Apparently, the most notable contributor to Ron Paul is... Rob Kampia, director of the Marijuana Policy Project. It's going to be a long campaign.
One month later came the Republican debate in South Carolina when Paul was confronted by Rudy Giuliani and heckled by a pro-war crowd. Byron York of National Review pronounced Paul "out—way out." Republicans talked about banning him from future debates.
The candidate who made a big move, who came out of nowhere to win new name recognition was...Ron Paul. But it's probably not the sort of name recognition Republican presidential candidates want. "Wow," said one adviser to a rival campaign after listening to Paul's blame-America lecture. "I haven't heard anything like that this side of Rosie O'Donnell."
And on and on. Libertarians, tempted to root for Paul, worried
that Paul's meager campaign and rock-bottom polls would make it
seem, again, like the philosophy was unpopular. That joined the worry
that Paul's controversial writings (attributed to him, at least) on
race would blow up and tar every libertarian by association. None
of this has happened. As Paul's vast coalition of political
outcasts organized online and filled his war chest, the mainstream
media has grown more interested in libertarianism—all of it, not
just Paul's brand—and has generally ignored his
David Weigel is an associate editor of reason.