Scott Rosenberg deconstructs the notion of “defining moments” in presidential campaigns:
What I am more and more experiencing, from the inside of a campaign now, is the extent to which the mass media (1) defines the process of choice for Americans, and (2) trivializes the choices available to folks. The media wants the public to decide what “style” of president they want: folksy, scholarly, patrician, military, rowdy. Now CNN is running a poll on whether or not the media is being “fair” to Dean. Hmmm. I would say this is the Fox running the henhouse–except, of course, this is CNN rather than Fox.
There is almost no discussion in the TV media of other grounds for choice. These might reasonably include (1) the interests that the candidate represents–financial and otherwise, e.g. big oil/oil services and big defense contractors–as expressed in who and how the candidate raises money, (2) the portfolio of issues that the candidate believes are important to work on, (3) the team that the candidate is likely to assemble to address these challenges.
A quick comparison of Bush, Dean and Kerry on two of these three dimensions:
Bush: oil, manufacturing, religious conservatives
Dean: individuals, progressive labor
Kerry: liberal wealth, financial services
Portfolio of issues:
Bush: war, space travel, family values
Dean: health care, education, civil liberties, anti-war
Kerry: war, foreign policy, financial services reform