Happy official beginning of the 2012 campaign! Sure, it sort of started back in 2008, and it sort of semi-officially started with the first candidate debate in May, and we've all basically known who the proper serious candidates will be since Perry joined the race, and the Ames Straw Poll was already considered the official start to the campaign, but the Washington Post's Dan Balz says, "The month of September will be the moment when the 2012 campaign takes shape," which means now everything is for real. Isn't it exciting?
The race starts now in part because the field is settled and more debates will take place this month, but it is actually the "official" start to the race because everyone is back from summer vacation. Sure, there have been reporters in Iowa and New Hampshire all summer, but all the stuff that happened last month was just a preview for the for-real campaign that begins, like the school year, after Labor Day.
The secret is that the "news" in September will be just as inconsequential and silly as the campaign stories of August. We're sill months away from the first caucus and primaries. No one major is likely to drop out before January. The polls being taken now are just as sketchy and unreliable as the polls taken in June. The fundraising numbers may have some surprises, but we all know Romney and Perry and Bachmann will have enough money to make it through the year. (Even Huntsman will have enough money to remain a weird fake-serious candidate through his first of several primary losses.)
All we're getting between now and New Year's is pseudo-events and meta-stories about "narratives" and "messaging" and the lines of attack each campaign already formulated months ago and is waiting to deploy. Just head over to Politico for the news on which candidate is saying what about whom. Will Perry's debate inexperience harm him? Will he end up sounding glib and arrogant and confident and folksy? Will anyone at all be able to tell the difference? The big stories will be "gaffes" and the skillful deployment of opposition research. And staff turnover! Ed Rollins has quit on Bachmann. Is she flailing or is ditching Rollins a good move? Either interpretation is equally valid!
(Breaking: Sarah Palin is in great shape, along with most of the rest of the candidates.)
It's important for political writers (including this one!) to convince readers that today's coverage of what is patently barely news is more worthy of your attention than yesterday's story on how the GOP needs Mitch Daniels to enter the race or how Bachmann and Palin are not really close personal friends, but we're still treading water until the voting actually starts.