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What England Can Teach Us About Getting Elections Right

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There are very few certainties in life, but there are some that we can certainly count on this January:

1) We're going to hear a lot of New Year's resolutions.

2) We're going to see a lot of people breaking their New Year's resolutions.

3) And number three, after a relatively peaceful holiday break, we are going to see the 2012 presidential campaign begin in earnest.

That means that before we even have a chance to exchange any ill-advised Christmas gifts, the unofficial race for president will begin in full force, a mere 671 days before the actual election.

There are a lot of things I'd like more of in my life -- more holiday vacation time being at the top of the list -- but more presidential campaigning? Not so much. Yet it seems with each passing election the campaigns get longer and longer, sort of like a bad recurring nightmare.

As I noted on yesterday's episode of "The Dylan Ratigan Show," I'm not the first person to express concern over the seemingly never-ending presidential campaign. In 1960 TIME Magazine published an article titled "Is the presidential campaign too long?" The approximate duration of campaigns around that time? Nine months. That's right, nine whole months or approximately half the time of the 2008 election, one of the longest in U.S. history.

Former Senator John Edwards was one of the first high-profile candidates to kick things off, officially throwing his hat in the ring on Dec. 28, 2006.

Eventual president Barack Obama wasn't far behind, announcing his plans to run on Jan. 16, 2007.

He was followed by eventual Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who announced on her website "I'm in" on Jan. 20 of that year, exactly two years before the inauguration of the 2008 winner.

In comparison, the GOP contenders appeared to be taking their time, with former Governor Mitt Romney announcing his bid on Feb. 13 of that year and Sen. John McCain confirming his intention to run during a Feb. 28 appearance on David Letterman.

This early bird timing was a far cry from previous elections. During the 1992 campaign, former President Bill Clinton declared his candidacy on Oct. 2, 1991, just thirteen months before his eventual win, while Ronald Reagan announced his candidacy on Nov. 13, 1979, just under a year before the 1980 election.

There is little proof that longer campaigns benefit candidates or voters. For instance, the last presidential election featured more debates than ever before, but how many of us actually watched more of them just because we had more to choose from? (Click here for a look at the Top 5 Presidential Debate Blunders.)

Maybe this is one issue where our country -- which I still consider the greatest in the world -- should consider taking a cue from our cousins across the pond. The duration of England's last round of elections? One month. That's right, one whole month. Four weeks for candidates to get their message out to voters, and that month included substantially fewer debates and television advertisements than we are bombarded with in this country. (Although that may have something to do with the country's restrictions on the influence of outside political groups in fundraising and political advertising, another area where we lag behind our allies.)

But then if that happened here, what would we in the media spend the next 671 days writing and talking about?

This post originally appeared on TheLoop21.com for which Goff is a Contributing Editor.

www.keligoff.com

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