Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Oh, to Be on the Campaign Trail

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Oh, to Be on the Campaign Trail

Article excerpt

TO tell you the truth, I would rather have been out on the snowy Iowa and New Hampshire campaign trail than tucked away in my cozy Washington condo. I would once again like to be keeping a close, on-the-scene eye on the presidential candidates, trying to figure out who will win. It's the moment when, every four years, we old-time political writers yearn to get back into the game.

We geezers do have some advice for the young whippersnappers covering the campaign. That's to be expected.

1. Watch out for surprises. You had a mild one in the Iowa caucus. Pat Buchanan kind of snuck up on you. After Alaska and Louisiana you should have seen Pat coming. He's a force to be reckoned with now, all the way to the election. I didn't hear anyone giving that much weight to the Buchanan candidacy - until it became clear on the night of the Iowa caucus that he was to finish right on the heels of Bob Dole. (It was, indeed, an unexpected development and an important one.)

Remember how Buchanan surprised George Bush in 1992 with a strong performance in New Hampshire? It's arguable that he, more than anyone else or any other factor, spoiled Bush's chances of reelection. Buchanan is a spoiler. Not a winner. Not in the end. I say this even though he just might edge out Dole in New Hampshire. Lamar Alexander, should he win in New Hampshire, might make it to the White House.

2. Watch out for "little things" that can balloon into major factors or even turning points. I'm thinking now of the event that, arguably, kept Ed Muskie from getting the Democratic nomination in 1972. While speaking to a Manchester, N.H., audience, front-runner Muskie was, at one point, overcome by emotion because of a scurrilous attack on his wife.

Muskie shed a tear. In those days it seemed unmanly - and certainly unpresidential. Ronald Reagan used to water up on occasion. Bill Clinton gets tears in his eyes rather readily. No one thinks anything about it these days - except that we are looking at men who, quite appropriately, show their feelings. …

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