The Neverending Campaign (In the News)

You hear it all the time: Are presidential campaigns getting longer, or do they just seem longer? A new report from the Center for Competitive Politics laid a measuring tape on campaigns from 1952 onward, and yes, they are longer.  
Changes in media intensity and other issues have contributed, but the authors point to the main reason being federal campaign-finance limits that force candidates to spend more time raising money. The date when presidential campaigns began to run forever is impossible to miss: It happened in the 1970s, following passage of the 1972 Federal Election Campaign Act and amendments two years later. 
That law created the campaign-finance system as we now know it, requiring candidates to formally declare their campaigns, putting contribution limits on donors and requiring candidates to file quarterly fundraising reports, including the amount of money raised and donor names.
The impact is startling. Since the advent of contribution limits, the report notes, the average campaign has lasted 484 days, compared to 286 days in the 1950s and 1960s. Senator Eugene McCarthy’s 1968 run for the White House was launched in November 1967, months before the March primary in New Hampshire. A handful of large contributions from wealthy donors made it possible. Less than a decade later, Jimmy Carter ran the longest campaign ever—691 days.

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.