Left in the wake of an election year Politics: Campaign '96 is history. Too bad it couldn't last forever, right? No? Then where's that whimpering coming from?


You miss it, don't you?

You turn on the radio, but Bob Dole is not there, shouting everything THREE TIMES, THREE TIMES, THREE TIMES!

You turn on the television, and Connie DeJuliis and her "Robert Ehrlich is Clueless" commercials have vanished.

You stare at the telephone. It's silent. No pollsters, volunteers or candidates begging for your time.

Take a deep breath. You can get through this. Like a combat warrior, you have been on a long and harrowing journey. You're a survivor of Campaign '96. And you've got the post-election blues.

Or, maybe you don't.

"I'm not aware of anything that would rival post-partum depression," says Roger Fink, chairman of the psychology department at Towson State University. "Are you serious?" He's laughing, of course. Even political junkies laugh when you ask how they will cope now that the voting is over.

But think about it. How will we fill our time now that Ross Perot isn't buying half-hour commercial blocs? What new bumper stickers will we use to cover our rust spots? If Jim Lehrer, the placid presidential debate referee, falls in the forest of public television, will anybody hear it?

"I think everyone will gasp a collective sigh of relief that our 16-hour days are done and we can go back to 12-hour days," says Brendan O'Connell, an assignment editor for WBAL-TV, which dispatched a crew of 10 reporters and 14 photographers for yesterday's election.

"I'm going to wake up and say, 'Thank God it's only once every four years.' "

Surely there is someone is this great democracy, in this land of opportunity, in this shining city on a hill -- sorry, just had a flashback; they're normal -- who will miss the debates, the banners, the sight of Peter Jennings standing before an election control module only slightly less complicated than the system that shepherded Apollo 13 safely to Earth.

How about you, Jennifer Stika? You're Robert Ehrlich's campaign coordinator, and you have been working nonstop since January. You'll miss it, won't you?

"Probably," she says, sounding as tentative as Strom Thurmond's schedule maker. "Probably. But I'm not there yet."

No matter what happens, Stika says, there will be election reports to file, results to analyze, offices to clean up, friends to bid farewell.

In Washington, Doug Carter, 67, of Springfield, Va., has invested the past three months volunteering at the Dole for President headquarters, telling anyone who calls why he thinks the man rTC from Russell, Kan., should be elected.

"This is the first time I've ever gotten involved in politics," says Carter, a retired Air Force fighter pilot. "It's been very interesting, really. You talk to such great varieties of people.

"There are about 30 people here, and I've made tremendous friends. You bet I'm going to miss them, but I'll find something worthwhile to do."

Maybe he could coach soccer. If this year's campaign has a legacy -- other than Al Gore performing the macarena -- it's the nifty way the manipulative liberal media (sorry, another post-campaign flashback) reduced an entire segment of the population to a catchy headline-sized phrase: soccer moms. Certainly they will miss their moment of glory.

"I hate that expression," says Anita Lingan, the mother of a soccer player in Catonsville. "I just find it so offensive. I don't even understand the concept of 'soccer mom.' I don't know what they're talking about."

Another mom (her daughter is too young to play soccer), Mary Matalin, the Republican political adviser, radio show host and wife of Democratic political consultant James Carville, says she never has been sorry to see a campaign end, particularly those she has worked on.

"Win or lose, you just want it to be over," she says. "You want to wake up in the morning without clenching your jaws or grinding your teeth or having those headaches. I've always promised myself to be out of town by the Thursday after the Tuesday election."

Come Thursday, she and Carville are leaving for a vacation in Baton Rouge, La., which, come to think of it, is an ordeal all its own.

Steve Scully wouldn't leave Washington if aliens invaded. He may be the one man in America who longs for just one more Bill Clinton clenched jaw, just one more Bob Dole handshake, just one more Ross Perot hogs-in-the-chicken-coop, foxes-on-the-front-stoop jumbled metaphor.

Scully is political editor at C-SPAN.

"I'm in mourning," he says. "This is horrible.

"I was deeply upset when Tom Brokaw said the primaries shouldn't start until June. I have a mortgage to pay. I'll probably have to get a job at Macy's over the winter.

"Seriously, our coverage started in April of 1993 when Bob Dole made a trip to New Hampshire and we followed him there."

Scully now faces an almost interminable three-month wait until February, when Lamar Alexander, the former Tennessee governor, and Pat Buchanan, the conservative commentator, are scheduled to address the New Hampshire Republican Party, kicking off Campaign Millennium.

"Oh, I love politics," Scully says. "I just love it. I'll rest for about 24 hours, then I'll be ready to hit the road again."

Is he nuts?

Let's take a vote.

On second thought

Pub Date: 11/06/96

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