On Monday, for instance, Bush spoke in front of stacked boxes of pink beans, olive oil and cream of coconut at the Goya Foods factory in New Jersey--a backdrop thoughtfully designed to evoke economic bounty and speak to ethnic audiences. But the story that night on the evening news was all about one of Bush's aides, Frederic V. Malek, who resigned after the Washington Post reported that he had inventoried the number of Jews at the top of the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the Nixon Administration in 1971.
The next two days, too, Bush failed to say anything sufficiently newsworthy to earn him a story on the network news.
Another factor in the inevitably cyclical nature of press coverage, said Robinson of Georgetown, is that the press, in an effort to try to remain balanced, tends to lean harder on a candidate who has enjoyed a run of good press.
And the candidates themselves help drive media cycles.
"Someone who lags behind begins to be energized," Bush press secretary Tate said.
In the end, however, it is as if the media is zigzagging across the story, and balance comes from averaging it all out.
"When we were ahead we were this invincible group of managers," Dukakis aide O'Brien said mockingly. "When we were behind it is that we are in a great deal of difficulty. I don't think either of those things are reality."
Staff writers John Balzar and Bob Drogin contributed to this story.