Years ago there was a musical entitled "Stop the World. I Want to Get Off." That is how I feel about the much accelerated campaign for the Presidency. It has begun much too early and now it would appear that California and several other States are hell-bent to accelerate their primaries to a date either coinciding with New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary or at least the week after that of New Hampshire.
All of this is a terrible mistake. We want the American public informed about what is at stake in the election. When it begins two years ahead of the actual vote there is an excellent chance that the public will tune out and pay no attention once the nominees are selected.
Time was that the campaigns would begin the first of the election year. The Iowa Caucuses are comparatively new. Jimmy Carter was the first candidate to campaign for caucus votes. He won Iowa and that gave his little known candidacy a real boost. The New Hampshire Primary has been for much of the 20th Century the earliest primary. There followed primaries and caucuses all the way through California, which held its primary the first week in June.
Do you know what that did? It tested the mettle of the candidates. When Senator Edmund S. Muskie (D-ME) cried in New Hampshire it cost him the nomination. Before that he was considered the odds-on favorite to defeat President Richard M. Nixon for re-election.
Just think of the last election. Former Vermont Governor Howard P. Dean, III was endorsed by many important political figures, including former Vice President Albert A. (Al) Gore Jr. Dean raised and spent more money at the beginning of a campaign than anyone had seen before. He did this largely through the Internet.
The Iowa Caucuses caused Dean a problem. Still, the conventional wisdom was that he would be the nominee. To encourage his supporters Dean gave that famous speech articulating all of the places he intended to contest and then came out with a roar at the end that must have been played 500 times by the traditional and the alternative news media. Howard Dean was done. Yet, if the other candidates had dropped out and Dean were the only candidate to contest in California we might have had an entirely different outcome in 2004.
In 1964 Senator Barry M. Goldwater (R-AZ) was not assured of winning the Republican nomination for President until he defeated Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller (R-NY) in the California Primary in early June. As to New Hampshire, veteran Senator Norris Cotton (R-NH) went all out for Goldwater that year. Yet Goldwater lost New Hampshire.