PoliticalWire links to reports that Sen. John Kerry is off to a fast start in his bid for the presidency because he’s getting favorable press. This makes sense because he’s the best known of the declared, or almost-declared, Democrat candidates. Here’s an interesting moment from a Boston Globe article:
It’s too early to suggest that the senator has established himself as a Democrat able to mix it up on Republican geopolitical turf. But the coverage is at least building the foundation. “I think these stories have created a narrative about him that has to do principally with the line from Vietnam to Iraq,” observes [columnist David] Broder. “He’s asserted bona fides on national security.”
Observers say that’s important, because a candidate must wage a relentless campaign to tell his story and craft his image even at this apparently early date.
“Who’s paying attention? The activists,” [Chuck] Todd [editor of Hotline] says. “If [Kerry] can grab that front-runner label or `front-runner after Gore’…it matters now in fund-raising.”
Asked when a candidate should start generating media attention, CNN’s senior political analyst William Schneider says: ”The answer is now. The ‘invisible primary’ is going on right now. Gore is clearly competing in it. And it also looks like Kerry is going to be a very serious contender.”
In today’s media culture, presidential campaigns never end. It is not too early for exactly the reasons we can see in this quote: 1) Candidates must establish a “narrative” of themselves because the press structures its coverage as stories (see narrative bias). It’s important to establish a strong early story because the press often gets stuck on a master narrative, i.e. a set plot line based on a set characterization of the politician. 2) Money. Can’t get elected without it. And donors want to know they are backing a winner–someone with a strong story. Those at the back of the poll heap are not likely to garner much financial support without extraordinary grassroots support (e.g. Carter 1976).