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Inside Politics

It could all be over after 'Super Duper Tuesday'

By Bill Schneider
CNN Senior Political Analyst
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Tired already of the 2008 presidential campaign? Here's some good news: in one year, it could all be over. February 5, 2008, could end up even bigger than Super Tuesday. It could be .Super Duper Tuesday!

Look at the nominating calendar as it currently stands, nearly a year before the first real votes are cast.

  • January 14, 2008: The Iowa caucuses open the race.
  • January 19 (Five days later): Nevada Democrats hold their caucuses.
  • January 22: The New Hampshire primary.
  • January 29: South Carolina Democrats vote
  • February 2: South Carolina Republicans vote
  • Then February 5 could be Super Duper Tuesday. Right now, eight states are scheduled to hold primaries or caucuses that day (Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Utah and West Virginia).

    Another 12 states are considering moving their contests to February 5, including big states like Florida, New Jersey, Michigan -- and the biggest one of all, California (also North Carolina, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming).

    A three-week primary season?

    In other words, February 5 -- Super Duper Tuesday -- could become, essentially, a national primary. The campaign could start on January 14 and end just over three weeks later, with two thirds of the Democratic delegates and over 80 percent of the Republican delegates chosen by February 5.

    Those states may move up on the calendar because they want a cut of the action. They want less attention paid to small states like Iowa and New Hampshire and more attention paid to big, diverse states like Florida and California. To run in those big states, you need big money and national name recognition. Obscure contenders need not apply.

    Even if an unknown candidate pulls off a surprise win in New Hampshire the way Jimmy Carter did in 1976, there may not be enough time to raise the money you need to compete in, say, California. (Watch what could make the New Hampshire primary exciting)

    Moreover, California, Florida and several other potential Super Duper Tuesday states allow early voting, weeks before the primary. A lot of voters in those states could be casting ballots even before Iowa and New Hampshire. Long before the campaign ever gets to their states.

    Ironically, however, the new calendar may make Iowa and New Hampshire more important. You pull off a surprise win in one of the preliminary states and the news coverage propels you to victory in the big states.

    In 1984, Gary Hart won an upset over frontrunner Walter Mondale in New Hampshire and then won the Florida primary a week later on sheer momentum. What President Bush's father once called "The Big Mo.''

    So the best way to win a national primary may be to concentrate on Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. And ignore California, Florida and New Jersey. With so many voters spread all over the map, and only a week or two of the campaign all to themselves, big state voters may end up seeing almost no campaigning. And very little attention to their concerns.

    What are we left with? A nominating campaign that's starting earlier than ever and that could shut down faster than ever.

    If California moves its primary up to February 5, 2008, Los Angeles could become a key stop on the road to the White House.

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