The Politico has outdone themselves in the category of ostentatious self-congratulation. Just by way of mockery, some names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Each morning in Philadelphia, PA, around dawn, three men wake up and concoct their versions of conventional wisdom for an audience of Beltway political professionals and junkies around the country.

They are Duncan Black, the author of Eschaton’s pioneering tipsheet; Open Left political editor Chris Bowers; and Martin Longman, who writes for this publication. As in many heated competitions (see also, presidential primaries) each of the three denies he sees the others as rivals.

“We’re all longtime friends and mutual admirers, and have joked about getting together to eat breakfast as we type away,” Longman said in an e-mail.

But to their overlapping sets of readers and to other political journalists, they are struggling for the dominance in shaping conventional political wisdom for this presidential cycle — a title held by Eschaton in the run-up to the 2004 election.

Their obstacles are both one another and a changed, crowded landscape in which the notion of uncontested, unified conventional wisdom filtering from the capital to the provinces may be a thing of the past.

“Longman, Bowers, Black — it is like choosing between Harvard, Yale and Princeton. You really can’t go wrong, but there nonetheless is an intense competition,” said Chris Lehane, a political consultant who was Al Gore’s campaign press secretary.

How much more self-important can they get? Rick Klein, Chuck Todd, and Mike Allen have waning influence precisely because political junkies no longer give a damn what they think. They go to blogs. Insofar as the Beltway is still reading The Note they’re walking around with their heads up their asses.

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