Bob Gardner, who at a (relatively) early age is one of the Grand Old Men of San Francisco advertising, wrote a provocative oped for yesterday’s Chronicle.

From a positive perspective, this is the most uplifting of elections. The Republican candidate comes from a distinguished military family and is a certified war hero. In the Senate, he often goes against his own party, takes unpopular positions and, in the case of the Iraq surge, has been proven right. He is the true Comeback Kid, having been counted out prior to New Hampshire by both peers and pundits. Still, he outworked, outsmarted and out-debated a bunch of strong opponents. John McCain earned the nomination.

The Democratic Party candidate is the most crowd-stirring speaker since Ronald Reagan. He’s energized his party, brought in young, new voters and rewritten the fundraising rules. Nor does it hurt that he’s adored by most of the establishment media, who have been waiting four decades for Camelot II. No slouch when it comes to hardball politics, he whipped the Clinton machine. As the first African American nominee of a major party, he’s an inspiration.

And yet, as the general election starts for real and we get to know these candidates better, something less inspiring is clouding the electoral mythology that both sides embrace. It’s beginning to look like a race between Republican Bob Dole and Democrat Michael Dukakis.

Back in the day Bob worked for Don Rumsfeld at the Cost of Living Council.  He wrote Jerry Ford’s campaign song —“I’m Feeling Good About America”— in 1976.  He wrote and produced the ads for Dick Cheney’s Wyoming House campaigns.  He’s now president of The Advocacy Group, which specializes in preventing and/or cleaning up corporate messes.