The effect will be to choose a nominee within a three-week window in the first days of 2008. To be able to mount a campaign in at least half the country by February 5, 2008, a candidate will have to amass a huge war chest in 2007. Anybody who does not have a huge bank account, perhaps as much as $100 million by January of 2008 isn't going to win the nomination.
This steep fund raising curve makes it imperative to be the front-runner in the fall of 2006. Only the leader in each party's pack of candidates will be able to make the financial cut. Edwards needs to move up to be viable, while Obama seems en route to making it a real two-way race.
On the Republican side, the Washington Post has Rudy Giuliani adding to his formidable lead over the fading John McCain, leading 44-21 with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at 15 percent and Mitt Romney, whose campaign appears doomed, at 4 percent. Rudy had been nursing only a 34-27 lead over McCain last month.
If Rudy continues his current lead, he will be unstoppable, especially in view of the expedited primary calendar. And if Obama keeps up his momentum, it will be an interesting battle between the first woman and the first black for the Democratic nomination.