The Note: It's Never Too Early, Part 101

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29

Remind us again why there is something wrong with the country taking its time over about a year to consider its choices for the biggest job on the planet.

If you are bored, turn away.

But please don't think that because of some shifts in the calendar or the (compared to some, but not all cycles) early start that the campaigns and candidates are any more focused on fundraising than they were in the past. Ask Lamar Alexander, Tom Harkin, Bob Dole, Phil Gramm, Bob Graham, John Kasich, Joe Lieberman, or pretty much anyone not named "Forbes" who has ever run how much time they had to spend on fundraising, back in the Golden Years of yesteryore, before all these horrible changes.

And if you can bear to pay attention, you can learn a lot.

For instance, just in the last 72 hours, we learned it is never too early:

-- to understand that Hillary Clinton is the front-runner not just because she can raise the most money and is famous, but also because she has become the most experienced presidential-level politician in the race. (Only those who have closely watched her over the years -- and did hard labor with her, listening to looped talk about "the children and the families" in Upstate New York in 2000 -- can really explain the evolution to you, so make sure you read Adam Nagourney's New York Times take. LINK

And the conventions of journalism only allow Nagourney to hint at the reality: the headlines about the Clinton botched joke obscure how formidable -- relaxed, funny, tough, pleasant -- she has become on the stump.)

-- to take David Yepsen for shakes and fries at the Drake Diner (and then talk about it in your stump speech, as Hillary Clinton deftly did this weekend).

-- to acknowledge that as long as Iraq is Iraq, the Democratic Nominee for President in 2008 is favored over the Republican Nominee for President in 2008, making Hillary Clinton, as a snapshot right now, the most likely person to be the Next President of the United States.

-- to try and figure out the rank order of cash raised from January 1 through March 31 of Clinton, Edwards, Giuliani, McCain, Obama, and Romney.

-- to realize that Iowa is wide open for both the Democrats and the Republicans and both contests are going to be fought out on the ground the old fashioned way.

-- and/but to realize also that every major (and minor) candidate in the race (except maybe Tom Vilsack) thinks the path to victory involves bringing "new people" into the caucus process. (Good luck with that.)

-- to wonder which presidential candidates, beneath the radar, are most willing to spend their time when they are NOT in Iowa and New Hampshire, doing phone time making calls to unaffiliated Pooh-Bahs who live in Iowa and New Hampshire.

-- to try and figure out the rank order of cash raised from January 1 through March 31 of Clinton, Edwards, Giuliani, McCain, Obama, and Romney.

-- to Note that Rudy Giuliani clearly does not intend to take on the "big tent" fight at every key public appearance -- at least not yet.

-- to ask why the press simultaneously bemoans how "early" all this activity is taking place, and then does stuff like have most every major paper in the country over the weekend publish detailed, heavily reported stories about the semiotic meaning of Barack Obama's law school days. (Only the Los Angeles Times -- so far -- has done the Occidental years LINK.)

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