PRESIDENTIAL RACE IS MARATHON, NOT SPRINT
First, let's get one thing straight: political racing is not for the meek or the poorly trained. The race for the Democratic presidential nomination has just begun, but already voices are saying, "Get it over with. Save bucks to battle incumbent President George W. Bush and his massive war chest rather than waste them fighting fellow Democrats.''
The truth is, the nation is better off if we let the Democratic race run its marathon course.
In the first caucus, Iowa, and primary, New Hampshire, we are just getting to know the candidates. Only now can we begin getting beyond simple-minded partisanship to learn how the candidates stand on issues of importance in 2004 jobs, health care, education, terrorism.
Soon we will see how the candidates handle themselves in the long haul.
So far some candidates have run like the wind. Others have sustained occasional brain blisters. In Iowa, for example, front-runner Howard Dean fell unexpectedly to Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, a decorated Vietnam War veteran. Dean later gave, in concession, what has become known as the "I Have a Scream" speech. "Yeeaagh!"
But Dean has his good points, as Deaniacs will loudly proclaim. He is fiscally conservative and has executive experience as a former governor of Vermont. He has some interesting proposals on health care and other important issues.
Other candidates still racing also need time to either stride out, temporarily stumble or fall by the wayside. In time, their ability to handle pressure and exhaustion, to adjust and adapt, will shine through. Or, in time, their arrogance will cause them to stumble.
It's important that voters have the patience to hear more than just sound bites. Given time, robust debate will occur, clear leaders will emerge and more citizens will become involved in the process.
A presidential campaign is not a sprint; it's a test of endurance. Candidates who stumbled early may yet come back in the long haul to shine.
OREGON SHOULD HAVE VOICE
In 1996, Oregon wisely moved its primary earlier in the year than normal to March 12. That gave voters a legitimate say in the nomination for president.
But in 2000 Oregon relapsed. The May 16 primary came too late for voters to have a say. And in 2004 it is dj vu all over again. By this year's primary, May 18, the Democratic ticket should be all but signed, sealed and waving at us not in person but from our TV screen.
Moving up the primary to March, or piggybacking with the Washington caucuses, would make the campaign count here. It would attract more candidates for visits, and makes good sense not only in empowering voters but also in cranking up a moribund economy. More office space would be rented, hotel and motel rooms used, restaurants frequented not just by the politicians and their entourages but by the media that follow them everywhere. Oregonians would reap the benefits.