The Presidential Rat Race Under A Microscope

Showtime and Bloomberg Politics are trying to shed some light on what it takes to run for President in the new weekly half-hour documentary series The Circus. But where do you begin? Where do you point your journalistic flashlight? So many candidates, so many big buses, rallies, stadiums and book stores to cover.

Three Journalists
The Circus – Inside the Greatest Political Show on Earth, as the series is called, will be taking 30 minutes a week to bring everybody up to speed on the campaign trails of the Republicans and Democrats. It’s not nearly enough time to address everything important. But you can only be in one place at once, and the show’s only following three journalists who take their camera crews behind the scenes: Mark McKinnon, Mark Halperin and John Heilemann.

It’s not as one-sided as it may sound, because they’re journalists; impartial until proven otherwise. They’re covering the campaign the best they can, focusing their time and effort on the front runners. That means that they don’t cover every single Republican candidate out there. Right now, the race is between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. That’s where the action is. Everybody else is left alone for the moment. Cruz doesn’t have much to say, though. He’s in Christian book stores and diners, basically proclaiming he’s a man of faith and that’s about it. He wants the conservative vote. He’s got some oneliners, but he’s not a very good speaker. It doesn’t seem to matter much, because he’s on top of the polls in Iowa – and Iowa is what it’s all about. Although Trump is leading nationally, the so-called ‘Iowa Caucuses’ come first – on February 1. If he wins then and there, his opponents might call it a day and he’ll be up against Trump. And with just two candidates left in the race, who knows what might happen. At least, that’s what I’d be thinking if I were Cruz.

On Tour
Cruz sure is more accessible than Trump. McKinnon talks to him on his ‘courageous cruzer’ bus, but no one gets near The Donald. We get a glimpse of Trump standing in the shadows, behind the curtains, right before he sets foot inside another arena. It’s huge. He’s travelling the country like a rockstar. Compared to everyone else, it doesn’t seem fair. A packed stadium doesn’t say everything, of course. I can imagine people going to the Make America Great Again Tour, just to ‘see the show’, not to show who’s going to get their vote.

On the Democratic side of things, it’s Bernie ‘feel the Bern’ Sanders, who’s the complete opposite – in every thinkable way. Small crowds, grumpy, no entourage and travelling by regional train. How is it possible that this 74-year old man is beating Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton? A genuine, authentic, not in it for money, fame or ambition, socialist; it’s baffling the media. That’s where the story is, I suppose, so I understand why he’s prominently featured in The Circus, but I would’ve expected a little more Clinton, too. She’s still campaigning, isn’t she? The show does give us Sanders’ secret weapon: his wife Jane O’Meara Sanders. A lovely, sweet, smart woman, who stands by her husband every step of the way. She’s just as authentic as he is and that’s really refreshing to see, especially in politics, let alone a Presidential rat race; a thoughtful, loving couple, doing it all for all the right reasons.

The Circus puts the campaigns under a microscope, and like microscopes tend to do, a lot falls by the wayside. It’s only the first episode, though. Who knows where McKinnon, Halperin and Heilemann are going to be next week. That said, half an hour is just too short. You want to cover a circus, you don’t just highlight two of the lions and the lion tamer; there are also clowns, acrobats, tightrope walkers, fire breathers and three breasted women.

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