The 2008 political campaign has been going on forever, yet it still has many months to go.
Following the campaign can be a big waste of time. So-called “horse race” coverage is often stale within hours of dissemination. Can you imagine anything less relevant than an assessment from July 2004 about the John Kerry-George Bush race?
( Above is some real horse race coverage. The great Native Dancer on the cover of Time in 1954.)
I find that cable TV coverage is the biggest waste. It goes on and on. Yet rarely does it discuss anything other than the Presidential race. The “analysts” say nothing that any regular follower of politics does not already grasp.
As for issues, 90% of the public knows full well how they will vote. And candidates gear positions to the political needs of the moment. I know a great deal of where they stand from simple party ID.
These things said, I do keep up with events.
The Chronicle tells me as much as I want to know about local and state politics. I get the idea that politics are not very important to people in Harris County and that Texas is a mess. In the Times, I read international news first, and may or may not read the political stories. They run five or six stories a day on the Presidential race. It’s just overload. USA Today sometimes gets a bad rap, but I’ve seen days where they do a better job than the Times.
Online, I read Electoral-Vote.com every morning. It is succinct and they discuss races down the ticket from the Presidential contest. You can read EV for the five minutes it takes and you’re set for the day. I’ll admit to also reading the poll-focused FiveThirtyEight daily. But that’s an indulgence.
On TV, I have CNN on as background sometimes when I’m eating dinner or cleaning.
One thing I’d suggest would be to take some of the time you may spend following the campaign, and read a book of political history instead. A good book of this kind will tell you plenty about the 2008 race. Without context we have nothing.
A title I can recommend is America’s Three Regimes–A New Political History by Morton Keller. It does a good job with American political history in less than three hundred pages.