Some years back, the Democrats took a look at the process in Presidential elections – they were getting their keesters handed to them on a regular basis – and decided the way to fix it was to start the process early and get their nominee chosen much earlier. This decision resulted in Senator John “Magic Hat” Kerry getting nominated in 2004, and appears set to tap Senator Barack “Magic Suit” Obama for the spot this year. Kerry proved singularly inept as a candidate, and recent events have begun to show Obama’s failings at a time where he can ill afford it. The decision to ‘front-load’ the primary process has produced candidates of dubious qualifications, but more to the point, no effective vetting, so that surprise collapses and mistakes are inevitable.
The Republicans also decided to front-load their own primaries this year, which is one reason for the very weak choice of McCain. The theory, based as near as I can tell on nothing more than assumptions and guesses, is that most voters choose a candidate to support early on, and so there is a strong advantage in getting your party's pick out first. The idea seems to be, that getting your candidate chosen first gives the voters more time to get comfortable with them, and makes your candidate appear more solid than his/her opponent. The problem with that, aside from the basic premise, is that front-loading the primaries only changes part of the process; the actual election date remains the same, and what's more, the convention is still held in late summer, creating a period where events and opponent strategy can defeat momentum and support. Also, a front-loaded primary system is responsible for the schism between Clinton supporters and Obama supporters, as Clintonites claim - loudly- that Senator Obama claimed primary victory before the voters really knew who he was and what he stood for. Obama's poor job at Saddleback takes that claim further, as the Fairy-tale Senator proved unable to answer questions about his opinion. That's not to say that Senator McCain has been at his best this summer, either. McCain was slow to figure out that Americans want secure borders and protection of strategic resources a lot more than they worry about the Global Warming fraud or getting along with the other major party. If McCain had been held to the fire a bit longer by his rivals, he would have discovered what the party cares about a lot sooner. And both Obama and McCain have been remarkably dull at times in noticing that what the average voter wants has very little in common with what CNN or MSNBC care to broadcast. In past elections, the nominees of both Republican and Democrat campaigns came out of the primaries with relatively clear stands on the issues, and specific programs planned for deployment. It appears to me that neither of this year's nominees can say that, and playing catch-up in the last couple months before the election just does not look, well, presidential.