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.”