Every week on American Idol, judges say the same thing to the remaining contestants: You have to bring your "A" game. At this level, you can't afford to make a mistake. Against the remaining competition, you have to do something to stand out. Before and after every set of political primaries, TV's pundits say pretty much the same thing...
Last night, CNN chief national correspondent John King broke down the votes, city by city and precinct by precinct, with his fancy-schmancy political touch screen, which is fast becoming to 2008 what Tim Russert's low-tech hard-held scribble board was to the presidential race of 2000. Meanwhile, on MSNBC last night, Russert himself was looking at Hillary Clinton's 10-percentage-point win over Barack Obama in the Pennsylvania primary as a setup for the next big contest, the May 6 primaries in North Carolina and Indiana, and all but smacking his lips in anticipation.
"These next two weeks are going to be unbelievable," Russert told viewers. "They are critical... Strap yourself in, America!"
Well, Pennsylvania was supposed to be do or die, too, for the Democratic candidates -- but after they both did, neither died. And long before Pennsylvania, other contests were described, in advance, as pivotal, only to emerge as just one more link in what is turning out to be a very long chain.
On the Fox series American Idol last night, Syesha Mercado sang in the leadoff spot, which Idol pundits (yes, there are such things) have proclaimed as cursed -- yet she did very well. And though, from very early on, David Archuleta's ascension to the ultimate Idol crown has been pegged as all but inevitable -- well, early on in the political campaign, so was Hillary Clinton's claim to the Democratic nomination.
In both cases, there's no predicting what voters will do, especially as we get closer to the finals. The only difference is that, when it comes to the political primaries, we don't have Ryan Seacrest standing there and saying, "America has voted, and...," before giving us the results.
Instead, we have John King.