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Thursday, January 29, 2004

Riding the Waves

The Washington Post has a front page article discussing whether Dean’s rise and fall are the product of the media, or a result of his own performance. But isn’t the truth a combination of both?

The “wave” analogy so often used in the media seems more than apt. Great surfing is as much about being in excellent shape with skills, timing, balance, and muscles developed through years of practice as it is about catching the perfect wave. Now your average Kansan couldn’t ride like a champion even if the greatest wave ever came and asked him to climb on. And even Bethany Hamilton can’t be very radical on the Chesapeake Bay that graces Maryland. Instead, the ultimate ride requires both an incredible surfer in just the right position and a great wave appearing as anticipated.

The Dean campaign’s success and later weakening would seem to be similar. Joe Trippi, who reportedly resigned after being demoted from campaign manager yesterday, Howard Dean, and the rest of the Dean team put together an incredible campaign that harnessed a lot of energy and technology very effectively. And they caught the fancy of the media and the public for a while, the wave that produced a ride that almost looked set to end the contest. It shouldn’t surprise Kurtz or any other savvy observers that the attention span of both are limited, their affection fickle.

The media boom faded and, indeed, the press wasn’t always kind, other candidates attacked Dean relentlessly, the public noticed other candidates, and the Dean campaign had its share of stumbles. The wave and its rider faltered. We’ll see what happens next.