THE NATION: Why It Matters

In a littered office at Republican national headquarters one day last week, a worn G.O.P. tactician looked up from his master list of congressional districts, nervously reshuffled the foot-high pile of reports on his desk and breathed: "Thank God it isn't next week." Only a few blocks away at Democratic national headquarters, a party tactician jauntily swung his feet up on his desk, carefully straightened his tie (miniature dogs—in honor of Charlie Wilson—on a black back ground) and sighed: "Oh, if it were only next week."

Almost everywhere that politicians gathered, the tacticians' agreement was accepted as political fact: if...

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