Karl Rove: Why we need longer primaries--but a shorter process





The Iowa caucuses are 14 days away, with the New Hampshire primary five days later. And what follows from there won't be pretty. The way Americans are selecting our presidential candidates in 2008 is, frankly, a mess.

The first problem is the overall length of the campaign. There are few more demanding physical activities than running for president, other than military training or athletics at a very high level--and this will be the longest presidential contest on record. The first candidate this season announced Dec. 12, 2006; virtually all the Democrats declared by late January, and almost every Republican by mid-March. So next fall we'll elect a president who's spent two years rocketing around the country in an aluminum tube and sleeping in strange hotel rooms on a brutal, exhausting campaign trail.

This gives America the longest leadership selection contest in the democratic world.

It wasn't always like this. Bill Clinton announced for president on Oct. 3, 1991. At this point in the 1992 presidential contest, he'd been a candidate for 10 weeks. George W. Bush made his first campaign speech on June 12, 1999. At this point in the 2000 race, he'd been a candidate for just over five months.
In 2008 voting will also begin earlier than ever. In 2000, the Iowa caucuses were held Jan. 24. This time, they'll be Jan. 3. For the first time, some New Year's partygoers will still be nursing hangovers when they caucus.

Yet despite the seemingly endless campaign, the nomination contest will be settled quicker than ever. In 2000, there were seven contests in five weeks beginning with Iowa. This time there will be contests in 32 states in roughly the same amount of time....

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