INSIDE THE BELTWAY: The nomination races are over, or perhaps not It all depends on how you read the media spin.

The New Hampshire primary is 24 hours away as this is written, but however the fortunes of the candidates emerge, there are some lessons we may all learn and - with any luck - remember.

The New Hampshire primary is 24 hours away as this is written, but however the fortunes of the candidates emerge, there are some lessons we may all learn and - with any luck - remember.

The New Hampshire primary is 24 hours away as this is written, but

however the fortunes of the candidates emerge, there are some lessons we

may all learn and - with any luck - remember.



Iowa showed the way, politically and spin-wise. George W. Bush, with 40%

of the vote, led Steve Forbes, with 30%, and Alan Keyes, with 15%.



Among Democrats, Vice President Gore crushed Bill Bradley, 64% to

35%.



First impressions by the media virtually gave the nominations to Bush

and Gore. Second thoughts, however, and even some prescient first

thoughts, headed in a different direction. Mindful that an early result

would lead to a dull and uneventful period for political pundits until

the conventions (political editor: ’Another trip to California? I

thought you said this was over.’), a contest - at least in print - began

to take shape.



John McCain, who had ducked Iowa - and managed to pay no price by

regularly regaling the media with good copy - became a doughty

challenger in New Hampshire, where independents,who can vote for either

party, might make him a winner.



And it occurred to some analysts that ’W’ could hardly be said to be

’cruising to the nomination’ if the likes of Forbes and Keyes could get

45% of the vote between them. Particularly since McCain was as strong in

New Hampshire as he had been absent in Iowa.



On the Democratic side, Bradley stepped into a phone booth in New

Hampshire dressed as Adlai Stevenson and emerged, blazing away, as Pat

Buchanan.



He launched the kind of reckless, insiders’ attack on Gore for campaign

finance irregularities and shifting positions on abortion that had

earned Forbes the undying enmity of establishment Republicans in

1996.



For all of this, including calling Gore deceitful and even dishonest,

Bradley became, in the media spin, ’energetic,’ ’vigorous’ and

’spirited,’ and only Gore and his partisans used words like ’negative’

and ’personal attacks.’ All of which should lead us to the compilation

of a new media political vocabulary. (I would welcome any new

synonyms.)



Whatever the dictionary definitions may be, ’doughty’ in political

language means ’a good loser;’ ’spirited’ and ’energetic’ mean

’negative;’ and a ’free-swinging’ response can mean ’hostile,’

particularly if a candidate is ’stung.’ ’Above the fray,’ as Bradley was

until this week, means defensive and unwilling to fight back - i.e.,

Dukakis, Dole and the elder Bush.



Some other language easy to translate into political-ese: ’colorful,’ or

’rambling’ usually means ’drunk;’ ’feisty’ is almost always a synonym

for ’short;’ and ’measured’ - as in ’a measured response -’ simply means

’boring.’



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