Primaries provide thrilling times for journalists

Josh Coffman

Every four years it rushes in like a train with no brakes. No, not leap year, but the presidential primaries.

For many journalists this is an adrenaline rush that is “Better Than Sex,” stealing a book title from Hunter S. Thompson about the 1992 Clinton-Bush race.

Of course Thompson was 60 when he wrote the book, so maybe he forgot just how good sex is when penning the title. But these are exciting times to be in the news business. A week in the realm of politics can be as exciting as a good college basketball game.

And interestingly enough, Thompson, whose career peaked while covering the 1972 Nixon-McGovern race, is now writing about sports. The line between sports and politics is very thin. The only difference is most sports are more organized.

I believe it was Thompson who said Las Vegas could make a killing taking bets on presidential primaries. He was probably right. Thompson is a madman covering a mad world.

Such is the world of politics and presidential primaries.

Gracing the covers of Time, Newsweek and Rolling Stone, Howard Dean looked unbeatable going into the Iowa caucus.

The underdog-turned-heavyweight Dean, who once built a commanding lead from nothing in the Hawkeye State, was beat. Upset late into the fourth quarter of the contest by former-heavyweight-now-underdog John Kerry. Dean finished third in the topsy-turvy race, behind Kerry and Sen. John Edwards from North Carolina.

Perhaps Iowans are rethinking their strategy, opting to vote not for the best candidate but for the candidate most likely to beat George Bush. After winning Iowa, the self-proclaimed “Comeback Kerry” told anyone that would listen that special interests were on their way out of Washington, and that he was on his way in.

Kerry, who has been a senator in Massachusetts for 20 years, sounded a lot like he was taking cues from another candidate’s platform: Howard Dean, a guy who built a mountain of momentum by challenging Washington officials. Yeah, kind of topsy-turvy, huh?

Such is the world of presidential primaries.

Today things get a little stranger. Kerry walks into New Hampshire primary today with a lead. But expect Dean and Edwards to be close behind. And there’s another formidable candidate, Wesley Clark, in this race. New Hampshire will be a street fight, an all-out brawl similar to a World Wrestling Entertainment match.

After New Hampshire comes South Carolina, and it could be Edwards gracing all those magazine covers three weeks from now. Such is the topsy-turvy world of late-night whistle stops, baby-kissing and mud-slinging. Politics is one part sport, another part soap opera and three parts insane asylum.

And this year could be better than any in recent history. Especially once the eventual winner faces off against Bush. That’s when we press people get so caught up in the race that barely anything else makes the news.

The presidential race is a hair-pulling roller coaster that is fit to be held only once every four years. And it’s only fitting that we’re given an extra day in February to follow this madness.

Joshua Coffman is a junior news-editorial journalism major from Mount Washington.

This commentary does not reflect the views of the Herald, Western or its administration.