The Same Virginia Senate Campaign, 15 Years Later?

Lt. Col. Oliver North proudly boasts about his role in the Iran-Contra affair throughout the campaign. i

Lt. Col. Oliver North proudly boasts about his role in the Iran-Contra affair throughout the campaign. Lana Harris/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Lana Harris/AP
Lt. Col. Oliver North proudly boasts about his role in the Iran-Contra affair throughout the campaign.

Lt. Col. Oliver North proudly boasts about his role in the Iran-Contra affair throughout the campaign.

Lana Harris/AP

It's fashionable in Washington to say you don't like horse race journalism, and we're not talking about the Preakness. In the era of two year campaigns, it's chic, in a less than chic kind of chic, to say you want to cover the policy, not the fight. So as the Senate campaigns start to take shape, I was reminded of the fascinating documentary "A Perfect Candidate."

It follows the final months of the 1994 Senate campaign in Virginia and focuses on Lt. Col. Oliver North, of Iran-Contra fame. He's trying to unseat Democratic Sen. Chuck Robb. This is an interesting look into the machinations of a communications team for a candidate. And seventeen years later, not much has changed aside from the size of the cell phones and eyeglasses.

But there is a key difference the documentary illustrates: It's before the rise of the cable networks, so the print journalists actually get the ear of the press secretaries. And they steal the show. The interactions between Washington Post reporter Donald Baker and the communications teams are priceless; little 30 second vignettes filled with anger on both sides. Baker because he'll never get a straight answer, and those holding the power, because the press won't give up.

This documentary is a politico's documentary. And it's even worth watching for the tension and the interviews in cars, on campaign buses and out in Real America.

With Jim Webb announcing today he won't run again, it might be worth a watch. Depending on which - or if a - Democrat enters in his place, it could be a huge race.

Regardless, it'll be covered like it is.

Oliver North's communications director allowed documentary film makers to follow the campaign. This clip shows Mark Goodin's evolution towards the end of the race.

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