To paraphrase both Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina and Chuck Todd's Spotlight — happy frontrunners are all alike; every unhappy frontrunner is unhappy in his own way.
With the campaigns of Dean, Edwards, Clark, and Lieberman trying to figure out what the press will require them to achieve on Tuesday to keep a beating heart for Feb. 3, John Kerry continues to rack up favorable news cycle after favorable news cycle.
Without prejudging the matter or taking anything away from the voters, it's safe to say that if Kerry keeps this up, he will be impossible to beat on Tuesday and in a strong position for the nomination.
In the "dated Kerry, dated Dean, married Kerry" narrative that may end up defining the nomination fight overall -- as well as the New Hampshire primary -- one of the most poetic dynamics is the tables being turned on Kerry-Dean in terms of frontrunner scrutiny.
For months, when Dean was riding high, Team Kerry regularly cried in its Heinekens over the the failure of the press to hold Dean accountable for statements and actions present and past.
Of course, Dean's fall was accompanied by a level of scrutiny that at times bordered on the absurd — and often represented shifting and inconsistent standards.
The press too often keys off of the political combatants to decide what to go after and what not to, but for reasons that will be much discussed at Harvard in 2005, this week at least, John Kerry can do no wrong.
If Kerry were being treated like Dean was when Dean was the frontrunner (assuming any of you can remember that far back), these things would be monster flaps and areas of aggressive reportage:
-- Kerry saying "North Korea" instead of "South Korea" in the debate.
-- Kerry limiting his press availabilities.
-- Kerry "borrowing" aspects of Dean's message.
-- Kerry's record of legislative accomplishments (?).
-- Fritz Hollings using the word "Chinaman" at a Kerry event yesterday and Kerry not denouncing him.
-- Kerry bragging about his campaign finance record in the face of taking presidential PAC money, DSCC record, and Busta Caps.
-- Kerry claiming "endorsements don't matter" and then saying "We got Hollings and Mondale!" and, today, the League of Conservation Voters (and more are coming … ).
-- Kerry's apparently limited release of his tax returns.
-- Kerry showing an unpresidential temper in flipping out at kindly David Wade.
-- Kerry's team putting his traveling press corps at a different hotel than the candidate.
-- Kerry not being attacked at the debate and there being almost no pickup for his Vietnam medals answer.
-- Luis Navarro's quitting after yesterday's hiring of Steve Elmendorf.
-- A million other Kerry controversies that have been chronicled in the Boston papers over the years and clips on which exist in a bulging RNC file.
-- No Mike Isikoff stories (or: are there??).
The big news out there today:
The New York Times ' Jim Rutenberg reports that the Dean campaign pulled all of its ads running in states other than New Hampshire following Dean's disappointing third place finish in the Iowa caucuses. LINK Steve McMahon, Dean's media adviser, is quoted as saying the pulled ads will probably only be down for a few days until the campaign sees new, presumably more positive, poll numbers. Dean campaign officials are quoted as saying to advertise as Kerry surges would be like throwing money into the wind.