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Politics: Going Cold Turkey

McCain-besotted reporters take his defeat one day at a time.

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Frantically clicking channels on super Tuesday, USA Today political columnist Walter Shapiro (a.k.a. my husband) became so despondent as John McCain crash-landed that midway through the evening he had to switch to a Marx Brothers movie. Walter just couldn't face the fact that the primary season was over, with nothing to look forward to but eight predictable months of Bush-Gore mud-wrestling. Personally, I was hoping he'd be happy to spend a few nights at home again, but a conjugal visit apparently can't compete with the thrill of a hard day's night at a Day's Inn and the caffeinated talkathon aboard the Straight Talk Express.

Among political reporters, post-primary depression is currently epidemic. "I had four people come into my office this morning and ask, 'How are you?' " says New York Times columnist Gail Collins, who watched three hours of tapes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with her husband, Dan, the senior producer of CBS's Election 2000 Website, to recover. The usually cynical press corps -- the real McCain majority -- is inconsolable over the loss of the most accessible presidential candidate in history. "With McCain, there were fifteen stories crackling every day," Time's John Dickerson says wistfully. "I'm depressed," admits Slate's Jacob Weisberg, "but it's nothing that Prozac won't cure. Or electroshock therapy." Sounding shell-shocked himself after the primary, New Yorker writer Joe Klein strikes a glum note: "This whole thing ended with such a sickening thud." ABC correspondent Linda Douglass complains that returning to her beat covering Capitol Hill will be "like watching grass grow." "This is wrenching," cries Talk's Tucker Carlson. "I'm in such an awful mood that I'm hiding from my wife and three kids so I don't take it out on them."

"I didn't want it to be over," Weisberg says. Though at least when he finally got home, he was relieved to discover that his 8-month-old daughter still recognized her father when she saw him -- on television.


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