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Justin Walker's Campaign Diary

The End of the Trail

Date: Monday, March 1, 2004
Location: Washington, D.C.

I write this final dispatch in full view of the White House. I'm 20 yards from the South Lawn. It seems like an appropriate place to end.

My last event was a morning rally for Kerry in Baltimore. We're both a long way from Davenport, Iowa, and Mary Sue's Cafe.

There once was a time in this race when anyone could win and anything was possible. I felt the same way. A sense of absolute freedom. A world of possibility before me. Until today.

I wish I could write something more positive, something like, "It sure will feel good to be back in my own bed, after eight weeks on the road." But I don't feel that way at all. I enjoyed every stump speech. I loved every mile. I don't want the adventure to end.

Having said that, it's time for me to stop. I've driven to rallies this week in Ohio, Massachusetts, New York and Maryland, but I've barely seen the candidates. They fly too far and too fast for my car to keep up.

Gone are the days of seeing four candidates on one day in a 20-mile radius of Manchester, N.H. That was the Monday before the first primary. That was a great day.

There was a glory to retail politics, a glory to candidates working every diner between Portsmouth and Nashua, like desperate travelling salesmen.

There was a glory to ordinary citizens shivering at street corners on a cold Wisconsin night, each armed only with a yard sign and the courage to say, "This is who I am. This is where I stand. This is the candidate that I support."

There has been adventure and glory and … losing. A lot of losing.

Dick Gephardt will never live in the White House I'm looking at. When I asked him in Des Moines if he was pleased with that night's debate, he said with a touch of quiet exasperation, "Yes. We've had thirty of them." He seemed tired and beaten. He was.

Joe Lieberman will never live here. He picked the wrong year to run for president as a hawkish, pro-business Democrat. He lost the day Bush invaded Iraq.

Wesley Clark will never live here. Nor should he. Never was a candidacy a better idea on paper and a sorrier sight in practice.

Howard Dean will never live here. His 15 minutes are up.

Their exits leave only John Kerry and John Edwards, who I hope will run together against George W. Bush in a great fight over war and peace and jobs and trade and American values.

It will be a great debate. It will be so democratic. It will be fun.

I just wish I could keep my front-row seat.

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