Those Were The Days

Calling this the the "A.D.D. election," the guys at First Read describe last week thusly:

It’s another whiplash week. It's amazing how many Fridays we look back at the week and just shake our head... This really is turning into the A.D.D. election. Here’s the week that was… in reverse order… Phil Gramm's “mental” comments (btw, isn't "mental" such an '80s word?), Jesse Jackson “nut”-ty remarks, Iran’s missile tests (and that McCain “killing them” joke), FISA (Obama’s reversal and Clinton voting against it -- so did Biden, by the way), Clinton donors not happy with Obama’s debt relief efforts (and Obama briefly forgetting to mention the former rival at a joint funder), that McCain bio spot invoking the culture wars of the 1960s, the scrutiny of the candidates’ economic plans, more courting Latinos, Webb off the veep list, Carly Fiorina's Viagra/birth control comment, the T. Boone Pickens energy ad launch, the RNC energy ad and the first Obama response of the general election, and, of course, we started the week with Obama announcing he was moving the last night of the Dem convention to a football stadium. Whew. It's no wonder neither candidate has been successful at taking one of their "insert issue here" weeks from start to finish. There are just an incredible amount of distractions even during a supposed slow period like this one in July. ... But seriously, can either of these candidates get the message THEY want out there for even a 48 hour period? Calling you, Wes Clark, Phil Gramm.

Well ... use the words "whiplash" and "A.D.D." if you want, but I think this paragraph, with its roll call of minor controversies (the FISA flap and the Iranian missile tests are the only items that actually matter for policymaking, and I suspect that neither of them will matter much to the outcome of the election), is a perfect distillation of how unfavorably the largely-fake excitement of the general-election campaign contrasts with the actual excitement of the just-past primary campaign. The main difference, obviously, is the absence of actual voting from here till November: Pundits like to compare election coverage to sports coverage, but having a primary or caucus every week made the nomination contests feel like a baseball or football season in a way that the general-election competition simply can't compete with. There was a legitimate (if sometimes-disputed) way to keep track of wins and losses, and "winning the week" meant that you actually gained something that counted (i.e. delegates), instead of a couple days of favorable, quickly-forgotten press coverage and maybe, maybe, a one or two-point blip in the polls. Whereas after the agony and ecstasy of New Hampshire and Florida, Super Tuesday and Texohio, the Huckabee surge and the McCain comeback, the Giuliani fade and the too-little, too-late Hillary revival, the road to November feels less like an actual sporting event than like a four-month version of Super Bowl Week, with tons of media-abetted sound and fury signifying next to nothing. It was the same way in 2004 and 2000, I suppose, but I was spoiled by the primaries; I want that sort of excitement back. It's enough to make you think that we should run our general election across two months, as a rolling series of regional votes, just for the drama of it all.

See also Ambinder for a more eloquent version of this point.