- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 8, 2007

The attempt by some pundits and some polls to declare that the nomination contests for president in 2008 have already been decided is silly.

At least one pundit has already declared Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton nominated and has suggested by implication that the primaries and caucuses are irrelevant. He even cites the Howard Dean phenomenon in 2003-04 as proof of his claim, even though it was Mr. Dean’s political collapse in Iowa and New Hampshire that gave one more instance of hard evidence why pundit prognostications are not guaranteed by the FDIC.

Mr. Giuliani and Mrs. Clinton may indeed wind up as their party’s nominees, but it won’t be because any of my pundit colleagues presumptively states it to be a fait accomplis 18 months before Election Day.

Mr. Giuliani and Mrs. Clinton are currently leading in certain selected polls. Each of them has a large advantage of name recognition. Neither of them has run in a presidential primary. Poll samples showing them in the lead in New Hampshire, for instance, are so small that the cited margin of error (5.6 percent) is, adjusted for current poll-taking conditions, really somewhere between 10 perfect and 15 percent. Try to take that to the bank.

Both Mr. Giuliani and Mrs. Clinton have extraordinary negatives. The campaign for president has barely begun, and what we have seen of it so far is woefully dull.

Attempts to confine a presidential campaign to mere soundbites and insults at this stage are condescending to the American voter.

Some of these same pundits, so filled with themselves, were those who went after Sen. Joe Biden for his choice of words in an interview at the same time he announced his candidacy. We all know what Mr. Biden meant in his comments about Sen. Barack Obama, but the “word police” will not let us decide for ourselves. They have already declared Mr. Obama a short-term sensation.

Of course, they do hesitate about declaring Al Gore a loser this time because they know if he wins an Academy Award, he will almost certainly be elected president. (As we all know, if Olympia Dukakis, who did win the award in 1988, had been nominated instead of her cousin, she would have been voted president that year.)

Somehow, Sen. John McCain’s quest in 2008 is now declared over because he has taken a dip in some polls, and because he has taken a controversial and potentially unpopular position on the war in Iraq. Forget that he is the only 2008 candidate who has genuine appeal among voters of the other party. Former Gov. Mitt Romney’s campaign is declared out of it because, after all (and wink, wink) he’s a Mormon and he has changed his mind on some social issues. We are told to forget the fact that he is probably the most charismatic candidate in the Republican field, and has an indisputably outstanding record as an executive and manager.

Back to the Democratic field, Gov. Bill Richardson, with the best resume of any candidate in 2008, must be dismissed because he can’t raise money, and besides (wink, wink) he will only appeal to Hispanics. John Edwards, we are told, is a populist lightweight and flopped as a vice presidential candidate. Case closed.

I think these prognosticators and electoral savants wish that John Kerry would reconsider and get back into the race.This would permit them to say the obvious again without needing to examine and re-examine how real voters think, and how changing circumstances in the world, as they always do, alter presidential elections.

Of course, Newt Gingrich can’t possibly win. We all know about his negatives. Ignore the fact that his support in California, New Hampshire and other key states is unexpectedly high, and that no candidate in either party can match him on the stump.

Of course, pundits (including myself) can’t help themselves when it comes to predictions.

It’s part of our creative DNA. And we can’t help but occasionally make sweeping judgments about candidates. I do it all the time. Yet the rush to announce candidacies and to analyze political prospects ad nauseum this year so far is breathtaking. Think of it, not a single vote will be cast for a year.

The latest pronouncement is that if California holds its primary next February, the nomination contests will be determined by the next day.

That settles it. The rest of us are wasting our time writing about next year’s presidential campaign. Between certain pundits, pronouncements and the polls, it’s all over.

It’s not too soon to turn our attention to 2012.

Barry Casselman writes about national politics for Preludium News Service.

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