There were three articles in the Sunday New York Times that looked at the road ahead for prominent candidates. The article about Tom Daschle says he "is facing what could be the toughest campaign of his career" and raises "the question of how Mr. Daschle will juggle the conflicting jobs of Senate candidate and Senate leader." The lead article about the Democratic presidential candidates suggests that things aren't going according to plan for the party -- "The Iowa caucus contest is ending in an electoral environment quite different from what Democrats expected when planning for this moment a year ago....By some measures, the economy is showing signs of life, and it is certainly less of an issue than Democrats had hoped it might be now.... And with Saddam Hussein captured, the subject of the war ... appears to command less attention." (The article is written by Adam Nagourney, who always manages to point out that that the Democrats' glass is half empty, at best.)
But in the article about George W. Bush's 2004 campaign, everything's coming up roses. There's no struggle to reconcile governing and campaigning. There's no change in the country or the world that could throw a spanner in the campaign's works. Bush is tanned, rested, and ready (an adviser, unnamed, "for fear of angering the White House" -- oh, please -- gushes, "Karl [Rove] is brilliant, but in terms of political strategy, there's no question that the president is intimately engaged. When he comes into a state, he will know exactly what his numbers are, whether people think the country is moving in the right direction, what his approval rating is"), and the Bush team is a well-oiled machine:
At campaign headquarters, just as at the White House, days begin early. Aides are in at 6 a.m. or earlier to begin assembling packets of the day's relevant stories from the newspapers and television into White House-like news summaries for the campaign's senior staff.
By 7:30 a.m., there is what the staff calls a "rapid response" conference call between the campaign staff and Ed Gillespie, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, to review the important political events coming that day, like major speeches by the Democrats, polls and presidential events. The goal is to be ready with consistent talking points.
Between 8 and 8:30 a.m., the campaign has a senior staff meeting to go over the battle plan for the day. Those attending include Mr. Mehlman, Mr. Dowd and Mr. Holt, as well as Jack Oliver, the deputy finance chairman; Mark McKinnon, who is in charge of political advertising; and Nicolle Devenish, the communications director.
...There are also 33 staff members in 14 newly opened offices in major states, plus 5,500 county and precinct leaders who have been trained in 52 sessions around the country. They have learned, Mr. Mehlman said, basic grass-roots political skills: how to register voters, hold Bush-Cheney barbecues, call in to talk radio shows and send letters to the editor extolling the virtues of their candidate....
This, alas, is pretty much how the news coverage goes every day in the A section of the Times: The Democrats are hapless also-rans, and Bush is the political equivalent of the '27 Yankees.