So it’s August 2011 and, courtesy of the Iowa straw poll (chief products: a significant boost to the Ames, Iowa economy and a prediction accuracy rate of 40%) we have the first official withdrawal of the campaign, that of the once-well regarded Tim Pawlenty. Plainly he figured given the victory of the bizarre Michele Bachmann over libertarian Ron Paul, with Mitt Romney coming third, Rick Perry announcing his entry and Sarah Palin yet to start wreaking whatever havoc she will inevitably inflict on her party, left no room for him.

Yes, that’s right, a year before the Republican nomination, 15 months before the election, a bare nine months since the 2010 mid-terms, we’re already embarking on another presidential contest, and not even courtesy of an actual primary or caucus, but a straw poll at a Republican fundraiser.

Somewhere within the Republican party branches in other US states are operatives wondering why Iowa should be able to play such an influential role in shaping the early stages of the race, and thinking about how to manufacture another event in their own state that could raise funds and play an influential role even earlier than Iowa.

On and on it goes: US politics is now a virtually ceaseless election cycle, with eighteen month-long presidential campaigns barely finished before mid-terms begin to loom, before the talent begins assembling for the nomination of the party that most recently lost the White House. At best, policymakers get 6-8 months of clear air before the next round of elections starts dominating the agenda.

A permanent campaign is no way to run a country. Exhibit 1 — the United States of America.

Peter Fray

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