Here’s an indication of how much politics have changed. Back in 1968, Robert Kennedy didn’t decide to run for president until March 16.
That was a little late, but he still had time to seriously contest a tough three-way race for the Democratic nomination. In fact, Kennedy may well have won if he hadn’t been assassinated after winning the California primary June 4th. That couldn’t happen today. Two years ago, John Kerry had locked up his party’s nomination by March 4. And the nominees of both parties will probably have been determined that early two years from now.
Candidates, from Hillary Clinton to Mitt Romney, are already jockeying for position, and the 2008 presidential campaign will begin in earnest on Wednesday, Nov. 8, the day after the midterm elections.
So it should come as no surprise that Dick DeVos is already spending millions on commercials designed to introduce him to the voters. Frankly, that was a shrewd move. On New Year’s Day, virtually nobody, other than political activists, Grand Rapids natives and those who work for the corporation formerly called Amway, had ever heard of him.
Now, DeVos has vastly increased name recognition, and is running even in the polls with Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Does that mean that if he keeps it up he’ll be a cinch to defeat her by a landslide in November?
Well, maybe not. The Granholm campaign hasn’t even started their TV campaign, and you can safely assume they will have one. When they start charging Dick DeVos -- rightly or wrongly -- with sending jobs to China, you can expect his disapproval numbers to increase.
Also, the candidates will eventually be grilled by reporters and have to debate each other. Dick DeVos in a slickly packaged commercial may be different from live DeVos before the media jackals. The one time he has met the media so far, on Tim Skubick’s Off the Record show, he looked evasive, uneasy, and was largely a made-for-TV disaster.
That doesn’t mean he won’t be much better this fall – I suspect he will be. But it does mean the fall campaign is a whole new ballgame.
Six years ago, U.S. Senator Spencer Abraham had far more money than challenger Debbie Stabenow, and spent lavishly on TV. She was down by ten points or more with just a couple weeks left. But then she launched her TV campaign, flooding the airwaves in the last two weeks.
He outspent her by six million dollars, but she spent hers when it counted most, and won a narrow victory.
That’s not to say that those who start first or spend the most always win; they sometimes don’t. Imagine this nightmare scenario for Dick DeVos. He continues to spend millions flooding the airwaves.
But sometime in October, the voters take a last look, and say “You know, I am tired of that DeVos guy. He’s been making promises for a year, and nothing ever happens. I’m going back to Jennifer Granholm.”