Long Elections Impact Hopefuls

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    By Abigail Shaha

    In 1992, there were six months between the first presidential primary in Iowa and naming an official candidate at the National Party Convention. In 2008, the gap has grown to nine months.

    Experts and students agree that this nine month stretch will force candidates to spend more money and intensify media coverage, only to disillusion voters with a lengthy campaign season.

    The Iowa caucus is traditionally the first primary election and used to be held in mid-February. But Kelly Patterson, BYU professor of political science, said many states have been pushing for early primaries as a strategic decision.

    “States know that they have more influence in primaries the earlier they are in the primary [process],” he said.

    Patterson said early primaries mean more attention from candidates and the media, and can even hold economic benefits by attracting campaign money to local economies. Hence, Super Tuesday, held March 14 in the 2000 election, has been pushed up to Feb. 5 this year, and last January”s Iowa Caucus moved from Jan. 24 to Jan. 3.

    Unlike these eager states, national party officials want to delay their nomination until later in the year. In 2000, the Republican National Convention was on July 29; this year it”s the first week of September. The Democratic National Convention has also moved back from Aug. 14 to Aug. 25.

    Patterson said this delay is an effort by party officials to let the swell of media coverage and voter attention from the conventions give candidates a boost to get them through the general election.

    “Parties want to hold that boost until as late as possible in the process,” Patterson said. “If they have that boost in July, it will dissipate over the summer when people don”t pay attention.”

    But in this prolonged campaign season, voters are giving up on following the election process sooner than usual and long before summer.

    “I feel like the election has been going forever,” said Allyse Robertson, a junior from Boise, Idaho. “Every month it goes on I have less motivation to keep up.”

    Christopher F. Karpowitz, assistant professor of political science, said responses like Robertson”s are going to be typical with a longer election season.

    “There will not be as much good, sustained attention because it”s a challenge for voters,” he said. “I”m not sure that”s the best way to get to know the candidates.”

    Longer campaign seasons also mean far greater costs to candidates who don”t want to loose momentum and attention between the primaries and party conventions.

    According to the Federal Election Commission, campaign spending increased 65 percent from 1996 to 2000, and 56 percent from 2000 to 2004. This year is projected to have a similar increase as candidates scramble to keep media coverage and voter attention over a growing period of time, putting even more emphasis on the early horse-race fundraising stage of the election.

    But many voters said money could be put to better use.

    “They should use that money to fix the nation”s problems they keep promising to fix,” Robertson said.

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