Letter from a Mad Political Junkie

  • October 26th, 2000
    -- The slippery, see-sawing polls have created a volatile and manic environment in Washington. This week we go to the Washington Memo mail bag to get a taste of the whip-sawed emotions around the capital. Our featured letter this week comes from a political junkie who would only identify himself as Mr. X.

    Dear Washington Memo,

    I read last week's Washington Memo and watched for the possible Gore surge that you said might be coming after the debate.

    But on Saturday morning I made my decision. Gore was going to lose and I had to make the best of it.

    I'd lived and breathed this race for 18 months, kept my cool through the dismal summer, wrongly thought that April was the cruelest month and not October, but now I couldn't face seeing it all come to nothing. Especially after we'd been so close.

    I was sure Gore kicked butt in the third debate and would start to move in the polls. I gave him a few days. Let it sink in with the public. But then his numbers started to fall.

    When CNN put my man down 10 points I couldn't take any more. It was time to deal. Cut my losses. Reduce my emotional exposure. All the rest of it. I still had two more weeks before the fatal day. With any luck, I figured, by the time Gore actually lost I might be through at least two or three stages of the grieving process (denial, anger, etc.). So I got down to business. No more looking at the Polling Report, at least not 50 times a day. Close it off; it's not my worry anymore. And anyway, how bad could a Bush presidency be? The Dems would have solid numbers in the House and the Senate. He wouldn't be able to do anything that bad.

    Okay, so maybe I was still stuck at stage one or two. But I was making progress!

    It didn't matter that Gore nudged up a bit on Saturday, I was strong. I'd seen it before. And I wasn't buying it again. No Sunday morning talk shows. No searching for polling data on the Net. At least not much. When I cracked open my laptop on Sunday morning I can even say -- honestly say -- that I was relieved to see that Gore had slipped 4 points behind Bush in the daily Reuters-MSNBC-Zogby tracking poll. No more wondering. No more false hopes only to be dashed.

    But by Sunday night how could I ignore those numbers creeping upward, threatening to make it a race, threatening to make me believe again? I told myself not to look. He was trying to tempt me. And it killed me to admit that he was starting to succeed. Maybe it was a risky scheme, but I couldn't help myself. Just when I thought I was out, he keeps pulling me back in!

    On Monday morning I was telling myself to be strong. But I couldn't hide the secret thoughts -- not from myself. I tried to keep my faƁade intact when co-workers kept popping in. "Didya see the new Fox News-Opinion Dynamics poll? Down by two. He's moving!" I tried to hold firm but I knew it was a lie. I could feel myself slipping. When I got home I fired up my laptop, popped open the browser, and looked at the numbers. Only out of curiosity, I tried to tell myself. But who was I kidding? I caught myself imagining Gore's victory speech, with all his dopey, outlandish enthusiasm. And then Bush Jr. all down in the mouth trying to figure out how he lost. (What happened, Pa? Wasn't it s'posed to be rigged?) Maybe look some more? But no! Stop! I've sworn him off. I've already swallowed the bitter pill. I've put it behind me. Let these two weeks end!

    Then I remembered. I'd been here before. Al was like the old girlfriend who breaks up with you, breaks your heart, but then keeps calling. She wants to "talk." She wants to see a movie. She makes you want to hope again. Can't we still be friends? No! It's not fair, Al! Leave me alone. I'm still getting over things. It's not fair. Al, you tease!

    Dead even numbers won't win me back now. Come back later when you've got 5 points solid among likelies, 6-point spreads in Michigan and Pennsylvania, and no worse than even in Florida. And no tracking poll numbers. No half-baked polls like Newsweek or Gallup. Only NBC-Wall Street Journal will do, maybe New York Times-CBS in a pinch.

    Then we'll talk.

    Maybe see a movie.


    Mr. X