Four states, four regions, four local authors giving folksy, personalized takes on the candidates and the issues. You can't knock the Times' choice of format for giving readers a sense of Senate races across the country. But when it came to substance, it soon became clear that just beneath the authors' fly-over state surface lay Upper West Side attitude.
Setting the tone, author Deirdre McNamer might have found the only farm equipment store manager in Montana who makes "taking care of the homeless" his first priority. The Dem candidate's barber was also brought in to accuse the Republican in the race of "lies [and] cheap shots," complaining for good measure about money spent on the Iraq war.
Moving on to Tennessee, author Robert Hicks made no bones about describing himself as a 'yellow dog Democrat . . . from a long line of yellow dog Democrats,' adding that he "even owns a yellow dog named Jake." Bob described Dem candidate Harold Ford, Jr. as "a good man. . . . a moderate Democrat with a strong environmental record."
In contrast, Hicks portrayed the Republicans in the recently-concluded primary as having engaged in an unseemly fight over their pro-life credentials. Hicks gloomily predicted that "it’s going to prove to be a long, hot summer in Tennessee," meaning the GOP-trending Volunteer State will probably elect Republican candidate Bob Corker.
In Ohio, author Dan Chaon did cite a man who said he wouldn't vote for Dem candidate Sherrod Brown because he's been annoyed by the proliferation of emails he's been receiving from the Brown campaign.
But when it came to substance, Chaon described a woman who showed him a Rolling Stone magazine article by RFK, Jr. suggesting the Republicans stole the 2004 presidential election by "prevent[ing] more than 350,000 voters in Ohio from casting ballots or having their votes counted.”
Concluded the woman sourly, "It’s hard to care about this stuff when it seems like your vote doesn’t really matter anyway. I think a lot of people on both sides of the fence have a sneaking suspicion that democracy is kind of falling apart.”
The magical mystery tour ended in Minnesota. You almost thought that author Charles Baxter was going to take a balanced approach when he noted that both candidates have "100-watt smiles." Silly me. Baxter went on to claim that Republican Mark Kennedy's smile "often seems pulled back into a permanent rictus, like the old-time movie villain Mr. Sardonicus."
In contrast, Dem candidate Amy "Klobuchar’s smile may diminish if she is hit with too many Karl Rovian slimeballs."
Makes you wonder why the Times bothered. Rather than hiring writers from around the country, the editors could simply have remained in the comfy confines of W. 43rd street and told us 'Dems good, Republicans bad.'