- The Washington Times - Friday, September 21, 2007

The networks and the candidates may be all aglow about the presidential campaign, but not so for most Americans — Republicans in particular. Fatigued with the hubbub, the majority of likely voters — 56 percent — already are irritated.

“While political junkies have enjoyed the extended preseason for election 2008, most voters say the debates and other campaign activities have so far been annoying and a waste of time,” said a Rasmussen Reports survey of 800 likely voters released yesterday.

Only 29 percent of the respondents said the campaign was “interesting and informative.” There’s a partisan divide, though. Among Democrats, the number was 37 percent, among Republicans just 19 percent.

And while the journalists and political consultants often speculate about elections many years in advance, the public will have none of it. The survey found that almost three-quarters of respondents (72 percent) would favor a proposal to shorten the presidential candidate season to the 12 months preceding Election Day.

They may have a point.

The first Democrat out of the chute, former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack declared his intent to run on Nov. 9, 2006 — almost two years ahead of time. He dropped out of the race three months later. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, announced her intentions in rhyme, telling supporters “I’m in. I’m in to win” on Jan. 20 — exactly two years before the next inauguration day.

Negative sentiments have been building for weeks. A previous Rasmussen survey conducted in July found that 58 percent of the 1,000 likely voters said presidential debates are “boring,” half say they’re “useless” and only 15 percent categorized them as “exciting.”

The worst, perhaps, is yet to come.

There’s a disconnect between the media and the public. Voters may be bored to tears by it, but the presidential election has emerged as the year’s leading news topic, according to a report released in August by the Project for Excellence in Journalism. It analyzed 35,000 stories from this year in print, broadcast and online.

“The presidential campaign took center stage,” the report said, with it garnering more coverage than Iraq war policy, immigration issues and controversy over a racially tinged remark by radio host Don Imus.

The fare is heavily Democratic, with 51 percent of the coverage centered on Democrats, compared with 33 percent devoted to Republicans. The rest was divided among third- or mixed-party coverage. Among Democrats, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois eclipsed Mrs. Clinton in the “derby for free media exposure,” the report said, generating 622 stories.

Among Republicans, Sen. John McCain of Arizona led the roster with a total of 383 stories.

Other researchers have plumbed the depths of voter fatigue. A Pew Research Center survey of more than 1,508 voters released in April found that 63 percent said the presidential campaign was “too long” while 52 percent called it just plain “dull.”

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