The Signal

Happy first birthday, 2012 presidential campaign

David Rothschild, Yahoo! News
The Signal

If this election is starting to feel interminable, Sunday was an incredible anniversary: Oct. 28, 2012, was the one-year anniversary of the filing date for the New Hampshire primary.

I do not want to sell the election season short. The official campaign began a year ago, but the unofficial campaign began well before that. This time in 2011, Texas Gov. Rick Perry had already flamed out (although his "oops moment" was not until early November) and Herman Cain was dominating the polls.

Most people who run for president appear to have been doing so at least since the third grade—and those are the late bloomers. But even by the bureaucratic measure above, the official campaign to replace President Barack Obama began two years, nine months and eight days after his inauguration. That's 450 days before the next inauguration.

In most democracies, that period is about a tenth as long. The Library of Congress report on comparative elections concludes bluntly, "Official campaigns are usually brief in most of the countries surveyed." The report found that the official campaign in Australia lasts six weeks, France's presidential election is two weeks with one additional week if there is runoff, the French National Assembly's is 20 days, the United Kingdom's is five to six weeks, Israel's is 101 days before the date when the Knesset election takes place as scheduled, and Germany's can be up to six months.

Most democracies also restrict the length of the lame-duck period to days or hours, installing their new leaders immediately after the election. America has a strong historical reason for our lame-duck period; the United States' current system of government was formed well before modern communication, when it took days to find out who won and sometimes weeks for the winner to physically transport himself to the seat of power. Democracies formed in more modern times allowed for a shorter transition period.

Imitation is the sincerest flattery, and no one is flattering the United States' presidential election process. Economists view imitation in the open market as a key sign that others conclude that something is a good idea. In the free market of designs for democracies, no one is buying the United States' multiyear presidential election cycle.

Follow the state-by-state and overall presidential predictions in real time with PredictWise.com.

David Rothschild is an economist. He has a Ph.D. in applied economics from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter @DavMicRot.

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