By William Lewis
In modern times this lengthy procedure seems to have begun with Jimmy Carter, who after serving one term as governor of Georgia from 1970 to 1974 devoted the next two years to running for president. He traveled throughout the United States meeting various political leaders and voters, making speeches and appearing on local radio and television shows. During the primaries, Carter would send busloads of people from Georgia to New Hampshire to canvas prospective primary voters. They seemed to make a good impression on the people of New Hampshire. He would win the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary in early 1976. The political momentum from these early primary victories helped him win a majority of the 30 primaries he entered and also win 40 percent of the popular vote in the primary elections.Today it seems to be part of the political process for presidential candidates to spend a good portion of two years campaigning. Most of the leading candidates running in the 2008 election have done so. By way of comparison, in the British political process national elections are restricted to a three-week period, which is extremely different from the ever-increasing time span of the American national electoral system.A lot has been said by the presidential candidates this year regarding qualifications and experience. Mitt Romney has mentioned his executive experience as a governor. Rudy Giuliani has spoken continually about his executive ability due to his terms as a mayor. Hillary Clinton has spoken about what she considers to be her extensive U.S. Senate legislative experience, especially in foreign policy, as she berates Barack Obama for what she perceives as his lack of experience. It should be pointed out that of the last 27 presidential elections held between 1900 and 2004, 21 of them have been won by present or past vice presidents or governors. Since 1900 only two presidents were U.S. senators before being elected: Warren G. Harding in 1920 and John F. Kennedy in 1960. From these statistics, it would seem that the American people prefer presidents with executive experience in government over legislative experience.However, in the Democratic Party, of the three front runners, Clinton and Obama are now members of the U.S. Senate and John Edwards is a former member. Former Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico has shown promise, but is not considered a major candidate.On the Republican side, the three current frontrunners are two former governors, Mitt Romney and Michael Huckabee, in addition to former Mayor Rudy Giuliani. This type of background would seem to give some degree of advantage over Sen. John McCain and former Sen. Fred Thompson. Other issues could neutralize that possible advantage of executive experience, but frontrunner status does help in the early primaries. Winners of the early primaries influence how voters of later primaries vote.Turning to the possibility of a third party candidate, New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg seems to be holding off his decision about running until March. At that time the two unofficial major party candidates will probably be known. If he runs, it will mean getting on the ballot in 50 states as an independent. The two major party candidates will already be on the ballot. Many of the states have election laws that are partial to a two-party system, although there has been a marked increase in the number of registered independent voters during the last 20 years, meaning that they are not registered with either of the two major parties. It is these people whom Mike Bloomberg will mainly be relying on to set up his campaign organization throughout the country.The last time an independent candidate for president made a strong showing was in 1992, when Ross Perot achieved 19 percent of the vote by running against Democrat Bill Clinton and Republican George H.W. Bush. The big question now is, if Bloomberg does run but does not win the presidency, who will his campaign help or hurt the most in terms of final election results? In 1992 it was generally believed that most of Ross Perot's votes came at the expense of Bush, thereby helping Clinton win the presidency.In the forthcoming 2008 presidential election, the impact of a Bloomberg candidacy will depend on a number of factors, including who the two main party candidates are and the issues that will be raised by Bloomberg, since he is considered more liberal than Ross Perot was when he ran. No matter how we analyze it, this election is proving to be a very unusual presidential race with many uncertainties.