This is being written as voters are going to the polls in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. That's the so-called Chesapeake primary, because it involves a large, contiguous, heavily populated area along the eastern seaboard. The advance word was that Illinois senator Barack Obama was expected to sweep, but whether or not he turns out to have done so, this campaign year has surely held enough surprises already that nobody should be astonished to see the recent pattern of Obama victories reversed in favor of Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. We all remember what happened in New Hampshire, right? And big states like Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania have yet to be heard from.
On the Republican side, stern voices are being raised in high GOP councils about the outrage and embarrassment associated with continued campaigning from former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. Doesn't he know that Senator John McCain is going to be the nominee? Shouldn't he understand that, as the unembarrassable Mitt Romney said before pulling out himself, that to keep on running for the same prize as McCain will "delay the launch of the fall campaign"? (The same fall campaign that the public doesn't start paying attention to until after Labor Day, anyhow.)
And most of the professional players on both sides of the party line agree on one thing: It would constitute a dire fate just this side of a plague outbreak for primary campaigns to run unresolved all the way to the quadrennial party conventions scheduled for this summer. Quelle horreur!
Except that none of these jaundiced Jeremiahs bother to explain just why prolonging the pre-nomination presidential contests would be so awful. Well, nobody except the aforementioned Romney, who pointed out, with the same kind of inscrutable logic that characterized his ill-fated campaign, that for him to proceed spending millions more of his dollars in a mathematically impossible quest would allow the Democrats to pursue their diabolic plans for surrendering to al-Qaeda. That's what the man said, though we have yet to see the fiendish plot spoken to in the published platforms of either remaining Democratic candidate.
The fact is that the longer a presidential campaign goes, the better. The ordeal is what separates the real deal from the imposter. (Just compare McCain, character-wise, to the unctuous and dissembling Romney.) It also provides the kind of testing under continuous pressure that prepares and authenticates a candidate for the nonstop turbulence and unpredictability of the presidency itself. Finally, a lengthy campaigning process allows us enough exposure to the competitors to innoculate us against an outbreak of buyers' remorse down the road.
Oh, and one more thing: Decision-making conventions are infinitely more entertaining and enlightening than the overchoreographed coronation ceremonies we've been stuck with for the last few decades. All of the following presidents won their nominations in contested conventions with smoke-filled back rooms: FDR, Eisenhower, JFK, and Reagan, while Truman and LBJ gained their fateful vice-presidential niches through convention horse trading. Let them keep on going, until they — and we — are satisfied.