Hold your horses in the presidential race

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The 2008 presidential election is a distant 31 months away, and horse-race polls are already starting to appear in the media. Shame on us.

Will my brethren in the press please cease and desist for at least the next eight months or so? Every four years after a blizzard of polls preceding the election, we take a vow to make amends, but we never do. The temptation is just too great.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is far ahead in the polls on the Democratic side since name identification, as always, rules this early speculation. No one should be surprised that the senator is the huge leader at this point. With that name, she has an advantage over all lesser-knowns.

Clinton may even decide not to run. And with many party loyalists worrying about her ability to win despite gaining the nomination, she may indeed have second thoughts.

Former Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia is barely a blip in the name ID race across the nation. But he will manage to raise ample funds, including from his own fortune, to make a challenge to Clinton or others. Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina has a following as the vice presidential nominee in 2004 and could make an interesting opponent. Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, a stranger to most, is betting that his anger at President Bush's policies on wiretapping will carry the day.

And the past two nominees, Al Gore and John Kerry, are still nurturing hurt over narrowly losing to Bush. They may jump in with noticeable names.

On the Republican side, Sen. John McCain of Arizona is the leader since he is better known nationally. But even though McCain is trying to get comfortable with his party's rabid right wing these days, he could worry those conservatives who don't buy his swing from independence.

What about former Mayor Rudy Giuliani of New York, a hero after the 9/11 attacks. He is well known, but will the party faithful buy into a man who is pro-choice and favors gay rights?

Then there are Sens. Bill Frist of Tennessee, George Allen of Virginia, and Sam Brownback of Kansas. Frist has some name ID as GOP leader in the Senate, but the others are newcomers to the national audience.

The major point in railing against these early polls is that voters and viewers are paying scant attention to would-be candidates on either side. So why bury them in polls based only on name ID?

Editors and TV news directors should take a deep breath and wait until we know the names of candidates who are really serious. It is just a game now.