We're at that lull in the presidential primary season when pundits try to make the most of the least election returns. Iowa and New Hampshire are in, plus Barack Obama's landslide in South Carolina and now Florida's votes. Attempting to judge the mood of the electorate at this early stage of the primary season and ordeal is like trying to get salt out of a clogged shaker and then reading the candidates' fortunes from just the few grains that spill out.
But when the top comes off the shaker next week, and the results of Super-Duper Tuesday start pouring in, election returns will be everywhere. How like the Age of the Internet: Flooded by data, we'll lack only the judgment to know what it all means. Hey, what a country - the despair of pollsters and delight of those of us who love a surprise.
Joaquin Andujar may had had his erratic moments as both pitcher and outfielder for the St. Louis Cards, but what he once said about the once national pastime goes double for America itself: "You can sum up baseball in one word: You never know."
Sr. Andujar's word count may have been a little off, but his analysis was right on.
Americans are in one of our uncharacteristic periods of drift - or what feels like it. The presidential race hasn't fully jelled, and every lover of suspense and newspaperman enamored of good copy can hope it won't for a while - not even after all those primaries on Mardi Gras, which this year is literally Fat Tuesday for the country's politicians. Twenty-two states - count 'em, 22 - will be holding presidential primaries that maybe fateful day.
And just maybe Hillary Clinton can hold on to her presumed lead long enough to cinch the nomination Tuesday. If hubby will just stay out of more trouble. In the meantime, the nation pauses and waits. The lull is almost palpable. The air is still - the way it is on the Gulf Coast while folks await a hurricane.
Meanwhile, not that it matters much, an unpopular lame-duck president has given his State of the Union message to no great effect. One thinks of the last few months of the Eisenhower administration, when all eyes were on the next president, not the underestimated old man in the White House. Or, to cite a more exact parallel, the last year of the Truman administration, when a still feisty president with even less support in the polls than George W. Bush was hewing to his course. The country could hardly wait to be free of him and chart a new course, or at least welcome a new captain aboard the good ship America. It would be left to history to redeem his presidency, as he always knew it would.