Political Season Starting Early This Year?

With more than 20 months to go before the 2008 Presidential election, we already have a surprisingly large slate of candidates in both parties. I think Karl Rove is right, though, in saying it’s way too soon to start campaigning. I’m convinced many of these candidates will peak too early for their own good. I also feel that the field is still open for additional candidates and new names will be added to the slate. This is especially true for conservatives on the Republican side.

Such being the case, which conservative might run on the Republican side? Newt Gingrich is one potential candidate whose entry would be welcomed by many. He has hinted that he would run if he senses a leadership vacuum in the Republican Party. He also said he wouldn’t announce until September or October of this year.

That’s one name that would shake things up and alter the debate. He is a communicator and would be a strong national voice that could challenge any Democratic candidate on a deep and substantive level. Others? Off the top of my head I can’t think of very many nationally known Republicans right now who are both willing and able to challenge.

As I see things, the door is now wide open for someone basically unknown to rise to the occasion — much like Howard Dean almost did on the Democratic side in the 2004 race. While Dean didn’t win, he shaped the Democratic side of the race and the party for years to come.

Relative unknowns have won before. Abraham Lincoln was hardly known but won enough hearts in a divided nation to win the Presidency. While far below the character and greatness of Lincoln, for purposes of another historic example I’ll bring up both Carter and Clinton. They were little known outside their regions before their entry to the national scene, yet they won.

So the season may be off to a full start. But the race is long and will be won by the one who can endure to the end. It’s a marathon and not a sprint. In a marathon, anyone fit can win. I expect much will change in the next 20 months and new names will emerge.

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