As we all know, the 2008 presidential campaigns are getting swamped with coverage lately.  It is beginning to seem slightly ridiculous to me the amount of media attention that these potential candidates are getting.  Shouldn't the country still be paying attention to who is currently in office?  What's that guy's name…..Bush or something? 

With almost two years left until the 2008 elections, it seems like all American media outlets are becoming more and more obsessed with the 2008 candidates, instead of focusing on the current status of our country.

Certainly, this is great for Bush…the less negative attention he gets, the better.  But is this extensive coverage good for the 2008 candidates?  On the surface, most people would say yes.  Candidates need to get their names and faces out in front of the public so voters become familiar with them.  However, not all coverage is good coverage.  Here are a few reasons why all this early campaigning might backfire for the 2008 candidates currently stealing headlines:

  1. Someone is bound to screw up.  I like to call this one the Macaca Syndrome.  In the 2006 Senate elections, George Allen had the campaign all but won until one bad media spotlight ruined everything.  I think it's virtually impossible for current frontrunners like Barack, Hillary, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani to escape 2007 and 2008 with no public gaffes.  No person is physically capable of being 100% perfect 100% of the time for 2 years.  Unless they're all robots….
    Anyway, I expect that sometime between now and the 2008 election there will be another Macaca-esque event.  Who it will affect, I'm not sure.  But, I am convinced it will happen.
  2. Voters will get bored.  Campaigns have started much earlier with much more aggression than in past years.  In order to win the election, candidates are going to have to figure out a way to keep voters' attention.  This is going to be hard.  Sure, at first, online tools are garnering huge audiences.  But are people really passionate enough about the election to blog, network, contribute, discuss, and take action for candidates until November 2008?  I'm not sure.  I mean, part of my job is to cover politics online, and I'm already getting bored.  I can't imagine that "normal" citizens (meaning people who do not suffer from my addiction to the Internet) can focus their attention on these candidates until 2008….they're bound to get distracted.
  3. Candidates will Reveal too Much too Soon.  This sort of ties in with #2 and has implications for both campagin strategies and positions on issues.  As a group, 2008's candidates are developing far more robust online programs than any other set of candidates in the history of US elections.  I think right now, people are participating in these programs because they are new and exciting.  By the end of the election, all the candidates are going to have the same online offerings, and thus they won't be exciting anymore.  I think the candidate that saves a few tricks up his/her sleeve until the end of the election will find a lot of success online.
    As far as position taking goes, it's a bit dangerous for politicians to define their platforms so early in the game.  If a significant event occurs between now and the 2008 elections, candidates locked into positions will be unable to modify their stance accordingly without seeming like they're wishy-washy.  Maybe that's why the websites of Rudy, Barack, John, and Hillary are all so incredibly vague on issues. 

The Pew Research Center recently published an article about the accuracy of early campaign polls.  The gist of the article is that because 2008 campaigning has started earlier than ever before, historical polling tactics are going to be irrelevant and ineffective:

It's not just the case that polling in the nominating contests is perilous. Polls that test hypothetical general election matchups at this stage in the cycle are mostly wrong about who will win the White House. Early polling does provide a benchmark for charting trends in voter sentiment, but it probably won't be very predictive of the eventual outcome in 2008.

This is a pretty interesting article.  It notes that while Republican pre-campaign polls have tended to be pretty accurate, polls about the Dems have been all over the place. And, since there is no singular Republican frontrunner, the potential accuracy of pre-election polls is even more questionable than usual.

This prompts me to ask an important question.  Why is the 2008 election so different from past elections?  What has caused this explosion in coverage?

The optimistic half of me wants to think it's because Americans are genuinely interested in the political future of their country. Given the low apporval ratings for President Bush, it makes sense that Americans would take an active interest in who will be our next leader in 2008.

But the realistic side of me tends to agree with Eric Boehlert from MediaMatters for America:

The press truly has embraced the notion of the nonstop campaign and I think has done so for increasingly selfish reasons. For political scribes, presidential campaigns used to be the sports car their parents let them take out for a spin once every four years to show off. Now it's become a case of incessant cruising, with endless preening and posing. Specifically, White House campaigns can be career-making seasons, when high-profile promotions, book deals, TV punditry contracts, and teaching positions can be pocketed.

For news media companies, presidential campaigns mean big business; relatively inexpensive content that can be endlessly rehashed. In other words, they're good for the bottom line.

Think about it.  When was the last time you actually heard something original about the 2008 presidential elections?  Maybe it's now, as you're reading this blog post.