I was fascinated this weekend by David Broder’s declaration in his Washington Post column that the 2008 presidential election was the “best campaign” he’s ever covered. This coming from the “dean of the press corps” and a man who has covered presidential politics for more than four decades speaks to the enthusiasm and interest generated by the candidacies of John McCain and Barack Obama. It speaks to the promises, tools and bargains the campaigns have offered to the electorate, and how those have sparked an energy that many predict will result in unprecedented turnout on Tuesday.
Broder cited what is essentially the Obama campaign’s superior use of the promise, tool and bargain as the “precise moment” he realized this would be the best presidential campaign he’d ever covered. He knew it when he watched more than 18,000 people come to watch Obama in Iowa last January, and then saw the Obama campaign follow up with the legwork of volunteers, phone calls and precincts. On the Republican side, Broder saw it when the voters rejected the mainstream media, pundits and party leaders alike to elect the older, established John McCain over “younger, more attractive” alternatives.
What struck me in Broder’s column was the back-to-the-basics nature of both the campaigns and his reporting. As in his old days on the bus, Broder got his sense of the 2008 election not through blogs or YouTube but with on-the-ground reporting. And his column makes no mention of text messages, emails or websites. It’s about town halls, phone calls, canvassing and rallies, the campaigns meeting the voters 1:1. When we think we’ve come so far, how much has really changed?
And, if this is the “best campaign ever,” what can we expect next?