The End of Early Campaigns?

More than any election in the past, the 2008 Presidential Primary race started early – with some candidates declaring their intentions to run even before the 2006 Congressional elections had been completed. So, what has the early campaigning achieved? Not much. Millions of more dollars have been spent, and we are seeing more advertising earlier, but, with a few exceptions, the race still looks remarkably similar to the way it did in February or March.

The problem seems to be that politicians can campaign all they want, but they simply can’t force the voting public to pay attention. Earlier campaigning has not convinced voters that they should be picking who to support any earlier than they normally do. Recent polls show that only about 25% of people are actually paying attention to the race at this point, and an even smaller number are set in their choice. The most recent debates have gotten terrible ratings, and, at least on the Republican side, the leader is most national polls is “undecided”. 

Even if the race does see major changes – such as a lower-ranked candidate rising to take the nomination from the frontrunner, it will have to happen between now and the convention – no earlier than in past. All the early campaigning has done nothing for anybody, which leads me to believe that 2008 will mark the end of candidates trying to out-do each other by starting earlier than everybody else.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The End of Early Campaigns?

  1. frofreak

    Matt,

    I agree with the spirit of your post, but it’s hard to deny that for Romney, starting early was essential. Look at where he is at now in the early states and how that is finally starting to catch on nationally. Do you really think that if he waited until july to start campaigning in Iowa and NH that he would have jumped up to a double digit lead over Giulliani (who also wouldn’t have started until july and has huge name ID). Of course not. And Romney’s early successes are essential to boosting his efforts to campaign nationally from here on out. If he had to start at the bottom now, he would not have a shot, no matter how outstanding a candidate he is, especially with the Mormon issue being so loved by the media. It has taken this long, and it is only now showing signs of diminishing.

    For national numbers, the race is, like you say, more or less what it was in march. So for other candidates who are trying to run a national primary campaign, they might have well stayed home until july. But for Romney, who is relying so heavily on wins in early states propelling him to victory nationally, the groundwork laid for 8 months before now was absolutely necessary.

  2. jrcutler

    I finally disagree with you, Matt,
    This is the most wide open election process since 64. Mitt Romney has thrived off of this drawn out battle, who is a lesser-known, better qualified individual than most of America’s most recognized individuals. Seeing lengthy campaigns from individuals has seperated the men (Romney) from the boys (McCain) in organization, fundraising, and stamina – good marks of leadership. If we find a nominee that can produce wonders with their campaigns, then expect them to accomplish something as president.

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