Paul Muller at Heretical Ideas decries the application of the “Christmas Syndrome” to presidential politics:

You know how every year it seems like Christmas gets shoved down our throats just a little bit earlier? When we were young you saw it around Thanksgiving time, maybe right after. Now, my friend in retail told me if they don’t have their stuff up by the beginning of October, they are way behind the power curve. Some places even gear up in September! There are like 2 or 3 other holidays in there just getting skipped!

So the goal of the two major parties now is – and bear with me – to start the election process immediately after the new President is inaugurated.

Paul is obviously being a bit tongue-in-cheek here, but the general observation is worth thinking about. The especial bitterness of the 2000 election and its aftermath was partially responsible for the immediacy of this race, a factor not likely to be present in the future. Obviously, very few voters are going to be interested in a presidential race even a year out, let alone four.

It’s not the Parties per se that are trying to move the process up. It’s really the states. Because of the strange primary system, residents in some of the larger states, notably California, have virtually no say-so over who gets nominated while relatively insignificant states like Iowa and New Hampshire can derail candidates. So, for the past several cycles, states have been moving their primaries up. It’s not inconceivable that the nomination will be essentially wrapped up by the middle of March 2004. Which means the candidates have to start raising cash–$1000 max per pop–way before then to advertise. There is no chance to build momentum early, now: It’s make or break right from the start. Indeed, in the 2000 Republican nomination fight, several major candidates (Elizabeth Dole and John Kasich most notably) dropped out before the first primary because they realized they couldn’t compete in the “money primary.”

FILED UNDER: 2004 Election, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. PoliBlogger says:

    I think that while you are correct–the 2000 cycle is part of the explanation, I think that really this has been a long-growing process. The multiple pilgrimages to Iowa and NH, for example, has been going on for some time. I think that the advent of the 24/7 news cycle and the “money primary” (as you point out), has made this a more visible process. And the more visible it becomes, the more accelerated it both seems, and, indeed, is.

  2. James Joyner says:

    No, I agree.

    My point on 2000 is that this time it seems the speculation about 2004 really did begin immediately. We usually at least get a few months’ break–especially with presidents who aren’t lame ducks.

  3. PoliBlogger says:

    Gotcha. And in re: Gore or Liberman, that was clearly the case. We went, what? about a year before we knew Gore wasn’t running?