campaign desk

We’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling

Now it's gone...gone...gone...
May 21, 2008

It had to happen at some point. Tim Russert’s grin is just slightly less broad. The mischievous twinkle in Pat Buchanan’s eye is fading. John King’s fingers, when they work the Wonder Wall, are just slightly less agile. Brit Hume seems even more lethargic than usual. Chants of “Yes! We! Can!” and “Yes! We! Will!” have given way to shouts of “Make! It! End!”

Yeah. The romance? Fading. That lovin’ feeling? Lost.

Nearly five months since the primary season officially began on that frigid Iowa Tuesday in early January—and over a year since things first started heating up with the Democratic candidates—the magic is, pretty much officially, gone. We started the season elated at the unprecedented Historical Moment we were part of, thrilled to be covering such an Exciting Election. We’re still into it, and everything, but no longer is every little thing the remaining Democratic candidates do exciting and worthy of report. We’ve heard their stories—over and over and over. We’re know all too well their mannerisms and their quirks, their physical tics and their habits of mind. We’re in the Long Haul. The honeymoon’s over.

So when, last night, Obama won the majority of pledged delegates in the Democratic nominating contest—a feat that would have made for a Big Night Out in any other context—we were, as a whole, kinda bored. The tedium among the media, assessing the night the morning after, is nearly palpable:

Obama Declares Bid ‘Within Reach’ (New York Times)

Obama Claims Majority Of Pledged Delegates (Washington Post)

Obama wins Oregon and takes step closer to winning nomination (LA Times)

Obama Claims Delegate Majority (Wall Street Journal)

Sign up for CJR's daily email

Obama inching ever closer to nomination (AP)

Bam crosses delegate threshold (New York Daily News)

In Iowa, Obama reaches toward victory (Salon)

Obama all but declares victory (Politico)

Obama all but declares victory. There’s potential for excitement in this simmering underneath the compulsory dullness; there’s the knowledge that the guarded and somewhat precarious and increasingly tedious political relationship we’re in right now will soon Move To The Next Level. We’re about to Make A Commitment. But for now, we’re in limbo.

And the dullness we’re seeing in the coverage is the direct result of that fact. Its compulsory tone—and it’s not just the headlines, but the articles, too—stems in part from uncertainty. We think the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting on the 31st will end in partially seated Florida and Michigan delegations. We think that that won’t make much of a difference in the end. We think that Obama, who has the math and, increasingly, the superdelegates on his side, will ultimately win the nomination. We think, but we don’t know. And, more to the point, there’s no clear way to arrive at a resolution, short of a Clinton concession.

It’s hard to get excited about being stuck in limbo. Even if, when we emerge from our ambiguity, we’ll have witnessed history.

Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.