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Had a chance to talk politics with the venerable Randy Stapilus of Ridenbaugh Press the other day, and thought his insights on the presidential race were rather apropos, given Sen. Hilary Clinton whipped out a Saturday Night Live reference in last night’s debate.
Her point, that the news media is somehow infatuated with her competitor, Sen. Barack Obama, has been made inside the chattering class before. In this filing, the Columbia Journalism Review rips into that thrill one television anchor says he got up his leg while listening to Obama.
But beyond the occasional thrill there is this real dynamic Stapilus rightly pointed out – Obama's campaign is new. Not news, as in the same news every candidate and every campaign creates. Obama-mania is truly new, as in not seen before.
Every election has a few supposed game-changers. Ross Perot and Howard Dean come to mind; new faces with new strategies that faded away in the stretch. Obama is the game-changer who is also a serious contender. That he brought out the largest political rally in Idaho since Dwight Eisenhower was president is factually historic.
The challenge for the press, then, is how to deal with a campaign that is like every other in terms of policy proposals, but incomparable to the others in terms of enthusiasm. Does it serve the public good to give equal coverage to the candidate who draws 5,000 people to a speech and to the candidate who draws 18,000 and has a number pass out? Or is that ignoring reality? A question to ponder, given the highest office in the country is at stake.