Top of the Ticket

Political commentary from Andrew Malcolm

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Here we go with the fall campaigns

Well, this is it, the third and final holiday of summer, when many schools get ready to open, college football starts and most of us celebrate the misnamed Labor Day by not doing any. It is also the last opportunity of summer for politicians to parade and pretend to party with voters.

Now, the game gets very serious and people start paying attention.

By Tuesday, this warp-speed campaign will move into the final four-month leg before the caucuses and primaries start in a flash flood of voting that could well have both parties' nominees selected before Valentine's Day.

Wednesday night the Republicans debate on national TV, and Thursday morning possibly the last GOP candidate, Fred Thompson, finally and formally enters the race through a carefully-crafted webcast that gives him maximum and unfiltered control over his initial message to the millions.

It's just like something a TV actor would prefer, a meticulously-massaged script done and re-done over weeks by a team of writers and policy people who know the words that resonated with focus groups and the chance for the candidate to do as many takes as he likes to get it just right before it goes on the Web, free of hectoring reporters and their questions about campaign tardiness.

Such control will evaporate as soon as he gets on the road, of course, when life becomes an exhausting blur of getting into and out of cars, speaking and smiling and answering questions and trying to avoid obvious mistakes. But first impressions are important. And Fred's supporters have grown weary waiting.

"He's going to suck a lot of the oxygen out of the room when he first comes in," says Mike Huckabee, the formerly fat former Arkansas governor who's gained so much new attention for himself by exceeding his low expectations at the Iowa straw poll. "But I'm not sure I'd want to be in his position, where the expectations are simply just sky-high for him to be able to perform." Notice how Mike did everything he politely could to boost those expectations even higher.

Today the candidates are fanning out across the country, following meticulously prepared schedules to get the maximum exposure on a slow news weekend in strategic media markets. The Billary Show, which gained so much attention over the July 4th weekend with that hand-holding parade in the heat, resumes today in New Hampshire and tomorrow back in Iowa.

Today, Hillary Clinton, who's been campaigning for about seven months, "kicks off" her fall campaign, as opposed to the summer and spring campaigns, with rallies in Concord and Portsmouth with the former president. The pair pops up again tomorrow in Iowa for a Labor Day picnic in Sioux City and a Labor Day labor rally in Des Moines.

With New Hampshire empty of the Clinton couple, Barack Obama and his family and Bill Richardson will hit the Granite State tomorrow for separate rallies and meetings and parades and ice cream socials before Richardson goes on to South Carolina and then California for fundraising and Obama jumps back into Iowa. All the other candidates in both parties are busy too saying words they've said hundreds of times already and shaking hands of people they'll never see again who will remember the moment for a long time. John Edwards will be in Iowa before dashing off to Pittsburgh for another union endorsement.

Next thing you know it'll be late September, and we'll be speculating on Newt Gingrich joining the GOP field while much of the country rakes leaves and settles into football and hockey and that other contact sport, presidential politics.

--Andrew Malcolm

Comments () | Archives (25)

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Nobody in this field - on either side - really appeals to me.

I wish it mattered.

This article continues the conspiracy by the mainstream press of omitting any discussion of Kucinich. Kucinich is the only candidate who has addressed the real issues war, healthcare, income inequality, and labor. The exclusion of Kucunich is intentional; the corporations obviously do not want a real labor candidate running for office. The healthcare conspiracy doesn't want us to have less epxensive and better single-payer universal coverage. The military/industrial conspiracy doesn't want peace.
The fact is that Fred Thompson is not the only actor running for office; all the candidates, save Kucinich, are paid actors. Dennis Kucinich is the only real candidate who will restore some legitimacy to the office of President.

I hate the corporate selectees. THey really make me sick. Only a few good candidates are out there and they are getting passed over. Ron Paul seems the best, Kucinich has a lot of good points too. But the rest, and especially the 'top tier' selectees that get all the media attention do not represent me and are not going to do what is in my or the rest of the commoners' best interest.


take a look and listen to the speeches ,you might just consider joe biden he really knows the issues but more importantly knows the players and can get things done. go to c-span and watch and listen to him ,he has the best chance of getting coalitions together to get stuff accomplished. at least listen to him.

go hillary go

Those handshakes are memorable. I remember my mom shaking Bobby Kennedy's hand at a rally somewhere on Long Island, NY. Just weeks later we waited for hours outside St. Patrick's to view his body. I was thirteen and i will never forget it.

i agree with Hank and Kevin - it's hard to believe that, despite his excellent performance in the debates, Dennis Kucinich is continually discounted by the media, mainstream or otherwise.

Here's one Democrat who keeps hoping against hope that AL GORE will throw his hat into the ring ... There is no one more qualified to be president than he ... He has the experience and the wisdom (and unlike, say, Hillary) he was always right on the big issues like the Iraq War. Plus, he'd be the Dems' strongest candidate - he already won once, back in 2000! Seriously, I think all the Dem front-runners pale beside him.

This is very sad. How has it come to this in our so called "Great Democratic Society." How can we say Democracy is the best of all the options out there? None of these candidates are worthy of holding the position of President of The United States.
This is typical, of the last 20 years, of the media to down play those candidates that don't have big cash from fund raising and lobbyist's. The only candidates I fell are worth my vote and either Mike Gravel and Ron Paul.

All of the candidates should be listed. The mainstream media continues to exclude serious candidates who have promoted pointed debate on many important issues. These exclusions by the mainstream media damage our political process and tend to deny the people important information in making voting decisions. Where is Kucinich, Paul and others in this article ? Why are these candidates excluded ?

(Ans: A lot of them took the day off actually.-AM)

My goodness. Another genial grandfather/actor. The GOP is desperate.

Ron Paul has my vote.

Dennis Kucinich is a joke

This past week will be remembered as a turning point in the John Edwards campaign. Barack and Hillary won't know what hit them.

If I could appoint the next Presidential candidate of the Democratic Party (instead of just vote) I'd appoint Dennis Kucinich. To my mind, he has the best interests of the American people at heart! Too bad voters can't see that!

Where is the mention of John Edwards, who has the highest poll numbers running against Republicans of any of the Democrats?? Please put John Edwards back into the media spotlight. It's only fair.

(Ans: He's in there getting big union endorsements. Read it again.-AM)

Andrew thank you for the response to my comment,

" (Ans: A lot of them took the day off actually.-AM) ".

I understand that you are naming "The Top of the Ticket" and focusing on the labor day "grab" at media coverage. I enjoyed your approach to the

I think with the deeply (critically) important issues that loom for our country that increasing the breadth of news/commentary articles in general so as to include 'the field' would be good. Even simply noting what these candidates did (such "take the day off") is helpful because it provides additional exposure that is likely beyond the budget of these "non-top of the ticket" candidates.

I think we are all often entrained to only consider, and focus on, what is in front of us, what we are constantly exposed to; and with funding rather than true competition largely dictating public exposure in American politics enlightened democracy is jeopardized.

(Ans: You're welcome. As you know, the definition of news is something happening and hard to write about what isn't happening. And this is, after all, a blog. We don't pretend to be comprehensive. But I take your point and will keep it in mind in future such situations. Thanks for reading.--AM)

"Kucinich is the only candidate who has addressed the real issues war, healthcare, income inequality, and labor. The exclusion of Kucunich is intentional; the corporations obviously do not want a real labor candidate running for office. The healthcare conspiracy doesn't want us to have less epxensive and better single-payer universal coverage. The military / industrial conspiracy doesn't want peace. [A]ll the candidates, save Kucinich, are paid actors. Dennis Kucinich is the only real candidate who will restore some legitimacy to the office of President."

Well said my friend.
Kucinich has my vote, with Ron Paul second.

The only way people can be truly informed is to conduct the research themselves. You CAN NOT rely on mainstream media to provide complete information. They continuously fail on that front, which is sad because it is supposed to be their JOB!

Gore/Kucinich, Kucinich/Gore....they are the only real choices. Can we change things by just repeating that over n over?


My god your comments sound like a bunch of bufoons , Ron Paul really ?
No police , no firemen , no property tax , pay for your own school , I'm not
saying Government is great now - Because idiots keep voting in complete Bush and Actors , But read enough to have the option to know something , take 5 a day and read a little ,
The young black man who grew up in Indonisia , and married the girl who worked for the mayor after 2 years , and became a senator because of scandel, You know nothing of this man or his goals beyond a talking point.
Edwards has a wife that will most likely die during his term , after 30 years together ,-- quit the race and spend time with her .
Fred is a slime who married a cheerleader half his age and lobbied for a man who set burning tires on fire while around mens heads .
Bill is not for defending our border he is for cameras to watch them come over - oh wait now they can just drive over in trucks.
Half the republicans raise hands to say they believe the world was created in 7 days ? Sure and Santa is waiting with Ice cream , and 42 prime girls too.
All I would say is just read enough about these people so we don't get another drunk with no experiance because like it or not we are in a recession , and it will be worse by 2010. And I am sick of looking at stupid people running our country because people want some one they can relate to , no WE WANT A PRESIDENT , YOU KNOW SOMEONE BETTER THEN YOU OR ME .
I am for Biden until someone else smarter then him enters the race .
Yes its OK to change your mind , thats why we are supposed to like being here .

The insulting tone of this column is exactly why I canceled my L A Times.
The former President and the United States Senator are reduced to the Billary show, while the newcommer with virtually no resume gets the respect of Barak Obama and family. Bill and Hillary make me feel proud as an American, and the rest of the world embraced these two as well. It's because they have the ability to remember where they came from, and the majority of we humans are there. Mr. Obama seems to be ruled by his ego.

Uh, you've got the wrong Labor Day. It's fall 2008 when people will get serious--if they haven't slit their wrists to escape the campaign.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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