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The Unending 2012 Invisible Primary

January 7, 2011

This year's relatively delayed announcement timeline flies in the face of the "front-loaded" primary schedule that has pushed candidates into the race earlier and earlier. As late as the early 1990s, presidential campaigns weren't formally declared until late in the year before the election. Bill Clinton, for example, didn't announce his candidacy until just a few months before the New Hampshire primary in October of 1991.

Front-loading has permeated every aspect of the presidential calendar. Iowa, which held its caucuses as late as Feb. 20 in 1984, steadily progressed through dates earlier in February and late January culminating in 2008's Jan. 3 caucuses.

Some have said it's time to stop. Both parties are trying to shift the start of the season from early January to February. And the most likely candidates seem to be following their lead. This year, that means that Republican candidates are avoiding a prolonged primary battle that could leave them damaged going into the general election.

But for announcement junkies, there should be little cause for concern. In the new age of presidential politics, each candidate will likely get more than one bite at the announcement apple: after making the virtual declaration, online or on television, each candidate is entitled to an announcement event -- and an announcement tour to early states, as well.

In the meantime, stay tuned.

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