Although the next presidential election won't take place until November 2008, and the nominating conventions won't convene until next August and September, the media have been covering the candidates all through 2007 as though they were running a horse race. What is it about presidential politics that evokes horse-race metaphors?
The media have designated and re-designated the Republican "front-runner": John McCain, then Mitt Romney, then Rudy Giuliani, then Mike Huckabee. The media are also speculating whether Hillary Clinton will lose her front-runner status to Barack Obama.
Next summer, the presidential nominee of each party will take the reins of his party, and hopefully then of government. He - or she - will choose a "running mate," and the losers will become footnotes in history books as "also-rans."
The most fascinating horse-race metaphor that might emerge in this campaign is the "dark horse," a well-recognized label for a long-shot candidate who was not in what is now called the top tier. A dark horse's chance of winning the nomination depends on a deadlock among the leading candidates who are unable to cross the finish line with a majority of delegates.
Early in 2007, the media were confidently announcing that the presidential nominations of both parties would be locked up in the early primaries. It now appears just as likely that the early primaries will confirm the fact that Republicans are divided.
Each of the five top-tier Republican candidates has received endorsements from important Republicans, some of whom have state Republican organizations to deliver delegates, and some with large grass-roots constituencies. No poll shows any of these candidates with anywhere near a majority of Republican support.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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