Election Addicts May Want To Go Cold Turkey

The end of the presidential campaign is a relief for many. For news junkies, however, it can mean withdrawal symptoms. No more tracking polls to worry about. No more speeches to obsess over. Election addicts will need to detox.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The end of the presidential campaign is a relief for many. For the hardcore political junkie, it can mean withdrawal symptoms. No more tracking polls to worry about, no more speeches to obsess over, blogs left unread. NPR's Robert Smith checked in with election addicts to see how they're handling political detox.

ROBERT SMITH: The first step is to admit that you have a problem. And now that the election is over, Michael and Anna Henry from Brooklyn are starting to realize that maybe they were bingeing on election news.

Mr. MICHAEL HENRY (Resident, Brooklyn): I found myself every morning, the very thing I would immediately go to the Daily Kos and see the morning's installment of the tracking poll, which came out about 7:30.

Ms. ANNA HENRY (Resident, Brooklyn): It was hard not to open up the computer and read just about every five minutes.

Mr. HENRY: I would be tired and I would have to go back just to make sure nothing else had been posted in one of the blogs at three in the morning.

SMITH: They promised their children that after November 4th they could quit anytime. And yet.

Ms. HENRY: This morning I thought it was going to be over but as soon as I woke up, I was at the computer and Layla came down and she just was screaming, a huge temper tantrum. She said, mama, you promised when election was over, you would stop. And I said, you know what, you really are right.

SMITH: Any rumors about, say, Obama's pick for secretary of Agriculture would have to wait. All across the country, news junkies are emerging from the red and blue haze of the longest and most addicting election season in memory. The twist and turns of the primaries, the larger-than-life characters, the high stakes, once you got on this thrill ride you were hooked. Eric Max is an engineer from St. Petersburg, Florida. It started innocently enough for him.

Mr. ERIC MAX (Engineer): Normally, I just take a couple of moments from work or to relax and just surf the web.

SMITH: And you just started out, it was like a starter drug?

Mr. MAX: Yeah, and just forget about stuff and all of the sudden, it was feeding itself. OK, I've done five minutes of work, have these polls moved? Has there been another press release? Has there been a news announcement? Has someone made a gaffe? I had to check, and there may or may not be any change but I am still obsessively searching through, figuring something has to have happened. Something is always happening.

SMITH: So what will you do with your life now? What will you do with all this time? This is hours back in your day.

Mr. MAX: I think I am going to be much more effective at my job, for one thing.

SMITH: And maybe even a social life. He says he met a lot of new friends, where else? - out campaigning for Barack Obama. As these election addicts leave the pale video glow of their screens for the bright sunlight of their real lives, what happens to their dealers, you know, the political websites and cable channels? They drew in record audiences during this election season. And now what happens if those viewers and those readers kick the habit? I reached Time Magazine blogger Ana Marie Cox by cellphone as she sat by the pool in Arizona. She was experiencing her own sort of campaign withdrawal.

Ms. ANA MARIE COX (Blogger): It's strange to check my email and get nothing, to have a whole hour go by and have no new email. I feel a little bit like my ego is hurt a little.

SMITH: Being a political blogger maybe a little lonely for a while, but Cox says this is just a temporary mental cleanse.

Ms. COX: Everyone needs to take a deep breath, basically. I think that there is nothing wrong with realizing that things are going to be a little slow for a while. Because I also have the feeling that things are going to pick right back up when the administration begins. You know, it's an amazing time to witness, and I think people are going to want to hear about it and hear different perspectives on it.

SMITH: And in the meantime, there is no reason why you have to go cold turkey. Michael Henry, for instance, is working on cutting back but he just can't help checking in on...

Mr. HENRY: The Georgia Senate run-off. There's the recount in Minnesota. There's Darcy Burner in the Washington congressional seat. They're still counting votes there. There is the Alaska Senate race. So it's actually not over.

SMITH: Oh, no. Don't forget the Cabinet announcements, the inauguration, the first hundred days, the midterm elections. If you're truly addicted, take heart. Only 1,152 days until the Iowa caucuses. Robert Smith, NPR News, New York.

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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