It isn't even spring. Most voters have yet to see a daffodil. But it feels like October in the presidential campaign.

With 234 days to go before Election Day, President Bush is jabbing at his Democratic opponent by name. Thursday, Bush released his first "negative" broadcast ads aimed straight at Sen. John Kerry, who has been criticizing Bush throughout the primary season.

The Massachusetts senator is firing back, this week calling the opposition a "crooked, ... lying group." Kerry also plans to air ads in response to the Bush ads beginning today. Lots more negative campaigning is expected in coming months.

Is there anyone - the campaigns, the media and most of all the voters - who isn't dreading what looks to be an eight-month-long, down-and-dirty war for the White House? Is there anyone who isn't going to be sick of politics if this keeps up? The answers could be surprising.

For every political scientist or media watchdog who's warning that a bare-knuckles campaign is going to turn off voters, there's a campaign strategist, pollster or journalist predicting the opposite.



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Mr. G