Living a block away from the University of Miami campus, naturally I was fully aware of the significance of last night's debate between President George W. Bush and Democratic hopeful John Kerry. The first bouts have typically drawn the highest ratings. I wasn't able to score tickets for the actual debate, but I was invited to a debate-watching party on campus. Free food was being offered, so I sprinted right over!

Between the media circus of bright lights and satellites, I began to wonder about the political promises that were broken this year. Bush? No. Kerry? No. It was the media that let me down. All along I was told that the more heated the election -- and this one has been a scorcher -- the better it would be for the stocks of the broadcasting networks.

With folks tuning in and the various factions putting up party contributions to help pay for TV ads, the fundamentals behind the major networks should be at their heartiest.

I own shares in the parent companies of two of those networks -- Disney (NYSE:DIS) with ABC and Viacom (NYSE:VIA) with CBS -- so 2004 should have been a good year for me regardless of which candidate ultimately rings up victorious.

But if that were so, would I still be salivating over the notion of free grub at a campus party? Actually, that would probably still hold true because I'm a bit of a Living Below Your Means skinflint. However, in a year in which those companies and rivals like General Electric's (NYSE:GE) NBC, FOX (NYSE:FOX), and Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) CNN should have been soaring, we have been left with an electoral year dud.

2004 Media Stock Returns
Viacom -23.2%
Time Warner -10.3%
Fox -4.8%
Disney -3.3%
General Electric +8.4%


While those sums don't include the dividend payout pittances, it is certainly not a banner year for the boob-tube specialists. So what's the moral of the story? Is it that I should limit myself to believing only the promises espoused from the warring podiums last night? Ummm, no. It's that there is no such thing as a sure thing, but if you walk far enough, that free lunch can never be too far away.

If you have a more vocal opinion on who you think should win next month's election, share your thoughts in one of our many political discussion boards that Selena Maranjian highlighted in Political Showdowns in Fooldom .

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz will vote next month. As a Floridian, he realizes that his vote truly matters -- even if it's actually counted. He owns shares in Viacom and Disney.