Somewhere in Des Moines or Cedar Rapids, a shabbily dressed man is thumbing through a stack of papers, muttering to himself about months of wasted work.
He spent much of the last week tracking down some guy Christie Vilsack supposedly dated back in high school. The guy, it turns out, never actually dated her, and none of the nasty things he had to say actually panned out. But still, some of it might have turned out to be useful, maybe.
Except that none of it matters anymore. John Kerry has selected his running mate and it turns out to be the senator from North Carolina and not the Iowa governor. All that work — weeks of literally sifting through garbage, of wining and dining old political or business rivals — all for nothing.
He was well paid, of course, the campaign has money to burn and they took care of him. And some of the dubious material he had dredged up might be useful to the state party. Yet he still feels disappointed and more hollow than usual.
Similar scenes are playing out elsewhere across the country. In St. Louis, a man who lists his occupation as "security consultant" holds in his grubby fingers the arrest record of a man who was once a social work client of Chrissy Gephardt. A disgraced former reporter sits in a Jacksonville, Fla., Motel 6, wondering what he's supposed to do now with six boxes of selectively hilighted photocopies of Bob Graham's daily diaries. A private investigator in Santa Fe is replaying a secretly recorded cassette of the governor of New Mexico singing along with the jukebox of a biker bar. The P.I. is actually feeling relieved — the worst things he had managed to dig up about Richardson were stories the governor himself bragged about.
The actual details are, of course, probably different. But rest assured, these guys are out there.
You didn't really think all of that $200 million was going for TV ads, did you?