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January 20, 2004

A Fallows s-n-a-p-S-H-O-T - The Seek and Destroy Media Campaign
As the election year itself began, with caucuses in Iowa and the first primary in New Hampshire, each week's results would create a frenzy of news-magazine covers and talk show discussions about which candidate was overtaking the incumbent and which one was showing surprising weakness and strength.

Then, for the next nine or ten months, the real chase would be on. As each state's results came in, pundits would worry over and magnify the significance of the trends that had just emerged — only to discover a new, often contradictory, set of trends the following week. An industry of ever-revised predictions would spring up, with the conventional wisdom changing week by week about who and who was not "certain" to jump into the race. In the summer would come the party conventions, each stimulating fresh assessments of who did and did not have "momentum" for the race ahead — followed by the exhausting race toward the general election itself. In the last two months of the campaign, reporters, editorialists, and talk-show panelists would scold the candidates for avoiding the "real" issues in their campaign, for pandering to the voters greed or fear, and for resorting to personal attacks. When the campaign was over, it would be proclaimed the "dirtiest" or "most disappointing" in memory.

That was the binge. The purge stage would start a few days later, when reporters and editors had slept off the fatigue of covering the campaign. By mid-November, when working reporters were churning out predictions about the committee lineup in the new Congress or who was likely to get what administration job, editors and columnists would start reflecting in public on the excesses of what they had just done.

This from James Fallows pre-election 1996 book "Breaking the News: How the media undermine American Democracy"

The only change now? The timeline was pushed forward. No one would think of jumping into the race now.