Most Americans say the ’08 Presidential campaign so far has been annoying and a waste of time. One survey finds 56 percent of likely voters feel that way while only 29 percent call the debates and other stuff interesting and informative.
We may be in a forest-and-trees situation here. Certainly the prospect of all these months, with more to come, of posturing, ploys, spats and gotchas has been depressing, but nonetheless, voters are beginning to get some sense of who the candidates are or say they are.
Not surprisingly, the front runners have defined themselves most sharply. Hillary Clinton offers pre-Bush integrity, competence and caring with the added benefit of moving us beyond gender stereotypes. Rudy Giuliani will keep us safe, safe, safe by being “one of the four or five best known Americans in the world," thereby discouraging terrorists from messing with us. Didn’t he face them down all by himself on 9/11?
The runners-up are still in the conceptual stage. Obama is the picture of freshness and youthful idealism while Fred Thompson is a slow-developing snapshot of old-fashioned by-gosh conservative ideals, but neither is in sharp focus yet.
After the win and place spots, the show candidates are photogenic, but Mitt Romney keeps weaving out of the frame while John Edwards’ grim sincerity seems frozen in place.
Back there in the crowd scene, none of the bit players are coming forward, with the possible exception of Mike Huckabee, but he seems to be auditioning for second billing.
Comic relief, in the form of Alan Keyes and maybe even Newt Gingrich may be on the way, but meanwhile, the process is all we have and, fairly soon, like it or not, we’re going to have start paying closer attention.