Monday marks the official opening of the presidential primaries. Iowa party caucuses, rather than private polls, will provide a clue as to which candidates might win their party's nomination.
The unofficial opening of the 2000 campaign was probably on Nov. 6, 1996, the day after the last presidential election.
Longer presidential campaigns may be here to stay. That doesn't mean Americans are more interested. Polls show they're not.
Still, George W. Bush and Al Gore did try to lock up official endorsements and campaign money long ago. But they've been broadsided, respectively, by the sudden popularity of John McCain and Bill Bradley.
A string of debates in New Hampshire and Iowa has revived public interest, making this election more compelling. By April, the nomination contest could essentially be over.
Most other democracies have shorter campaign seasons. Their citizens are just as well informed about candidates. Should the US fix its system? Or are we locked in perpetual stumping by presidential contenders?
A candidate's need to raise money earlier is the reason for longer campaigns. Fix that problem and we'd have more governing and less politicking during the presidential cycle.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society