IT is a tense night in the Bush camp as George and some key advisers wait for the call that could alter the course of their campaign. Fundamentalists, the defense lobby, the National Rifle Association, the National Association of Pledgers of Allegiance--the seals of approval of all these groups pale in importance next to the endorsement of our nation's most illustrious and influential media powerhouses--Coke and Pepsi.
There are few events that Coke and Pepsi won't get in on, and this election is perhaps the greatest media shebang of them all. Just like the Olympics. It is a marriage of convenience, yes, but a brilliant one. Pop and politics.
This is also an issue that will surely attract the American public. An area in which every true-blue patriot is expert.
Doesn't everyone has a strong, pseudo-scientific explanation for the barely perceptible differences between the beverages? Hasn't everyone, admit it or not, bought a couple of cans and conducted a little contest like the people on TV?
AFTER hours of anxious waiting, the phone rings. As he hangs up the receiver, James Baker turns to face the staff, his face shining with delight.
"Boys," he says, "we're the choice of a new generation."
Everyone is delighted. "I told you guys not to worry," says Baker. "After all, Dan's uncle said he'd put in a good word for us."
The vice presidential candidate, unfortunately, is not on hand; he is out courting the Yoo-Hoo vote, which he is certain is indispensable.
The benefits of the Pepsi endorsement are obvious. Granted, it lacks the tradition and lore of the Coca-Cola name, but Pepsi has that crucial newness about it, an attribute sure to lure baby boomers to the fold.
Besides, the Republicans can reclaim Democratic turf. "If Geraldine can hawk the stuff," George exclaims in his clumsy yet eloquent, boyish yet tough, Southern yet Puritan, wimpy yet wimpy, utterly consistent way, "then, goddammit, so can I."
George also has the perfect advertising campaign in mind. "I've got it. We get a big crowd. Lots of supporters. Then I come out, see, and the crowd really goes wild. I'm wearing just one glove and I'm about to do this great step where I just kind of slide backwards and suddenly my hair spontaneously incinerates. That'll get them out to the polls on October 8th."
"George, how many times do I have to say this," Baker sighs. "For the last time: it's November. The elections are in November. And I think someone's tried that before."
"Oh, beat it," replies George, "just beat it."
DUKAKIS and his staffers find themselves in a different type of quandary. First, there is the inevitable Cokecocaine link. And then there is the crucial, perhaps politically lethal question of the "new" Coke debacle. New Coke was anathema to the nation's traditionalist men and women. Dukakis no longer has to shrug off the "I" label but now the "n" world as well. He will need to take a stand. Classic Coke. With sugar. With caffeine. For real Americans.
Dukakis's advisers can rely on the old "Coke adds life," campaign to add even more zest to their already boisterous candidate. As one insider notes, "Thank God Coke adds life and not eyebrow hair."
The ad campaign will be simple, elegant with a pithy slogan: "Duke. Coke. A slant rhyme. A straight arrow."
Luckily, campaign chairman John Sasso is back to run the attack against the Bush strategy. He has already contacted some of his reporter buddies with actual footage of Bush at age twelve swigging, alas, a Coke and not a Pepsi. A gleeful Sasso located the clip with the help of Kitty Dukakis ally Senator Steve Symms from Idaho.
AND so, with the choice boiled down to the two colas, Americans can confront the kind of decision they learned to make during the Democratic primaries--discerning between virtually indistinguishable candidates.
Both sides are confident; here is the kind of issue voters understand. No need to worry their little heads about deficits, weapons systems, health care, education--no, what voters really need is a clear choice. Forget the voting booth. Bring on the taste test.