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Doctor, please help me.

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I've stopped reading books, cast aside my guitar, stuffed my gym shorts, unused, in my bedroom chest of drawers. I've missed most of the baseball playoffs, muffed scheduled meetings at school, mistaken the Internet for my best friend.

My back is sore, my joints stiff, my eyes watery from bending over my computer screen, scrolling through articles from the Cleveland Plain-Dealer to the Kalamazoo Gazette, perusing poll after poll for some deep, hidden meaning.

Did you know that in Tennessee, Harold Ford leads his Republican rival for Senate by a .8 percent aggregate? Is that statistically significant? Surely another poll is on the way. I'll check back -- at 10:11, 2:09, 4:27, 8:36 and right before bed.

Bed. I have a wife, I think. She said something about a hug the other night.

"Be right there, sweetie. Just have to check the political landscape."

I should be done in 19 days, Nov. 7, 2006.


Election day. Another chance for euphoria " or more misery. Maybe, just maybe, this year will be different. Maybe the Democrats, those lovable wishy-washy Democrats, will actually win something nationally -- the House, the Senate, or both. The pundits are saying they could. Even Republican pundits are saying so. Which is exactly why I am so worried.

Could it really be that those in the American heartland will see beyond the unprecedented-- and, of course, entirely coincidental -- drop in gas prices?

Could it be that even they kind of, sort of, realize that the world is a mess? That North Korea just tested the Big One. That Iraq has come unglued. That Afghanistan is blowing up. No, probably not I'd imagine, if they're listening only to George. Because George, by George, is going to stay the course, spread Democracy, hang tough and true to our friends.

Stay the course.
Does that mean building that 700-mile wall along the 2,000-mile Mexican border (help me with the math here, please)? Does it mean building a better missile defense system that keeps the bad guys' bombs out? Or passing more laws to torture and lock up terror suspects without any legal recourse? I guess if none of it works, we can always try a little faith-based prayer in the classroom.

Doctor, can you prescribe a vacation? How about 20 days in Togo or anyplace without technology. I've heard the Amazon jungle is swell this time of year. I'll come back Nov. 8.

The other night, I woke at 4 a.m. and stumbled to the computer. More polls.

Oh dear. Claire McCaskill has slipped behind again in Missouri's Senate race. And Democrat Bob Casey's lead is fading in the Pennsylvania Senate race, too. What's more, he's running against a certified Neanderthal: Rick Santorum, third-ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate leadership, a man who has compared homsexuality to bestiality.

But wait, was that a Brookings Institute scholar I heard say on NPR that the Democrats could gain more than the 30 House seats? (Will it be partly sunny tomorrow?)

Ouch. The New York Times had an article online that says some people STILL love Darth Vader. ("Cheney Hits Heartland, and He Can Feel the Love.") Should I be worried, doctor? I guess it's only Kansas. I've heard it's the last bastion for girls named Dorothy, witches, right-wing Republicans, and state police who make you drive 55 over every 2,432 miles of flatland. The heck with Kansas. It's big. But it's boring.

Tell me, though. Do you think it's possible Nebraskans like him, too?

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Jerry Lanson teaches journalism at Emerson College in Boston. He's been a newspaper reporter, columnist, writing coach and editor. His latest book, "Writing for Others, Writing for Ourselves," was published in January by Rowman & Littlefield.

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