The 2008 presidential election is more than a year away and campaigns are already in full swing. The candidates will spend about $1 billion trying to get elected. It's no coincidence the best-financed candidates have won eight of the last 10 contested primaries.

New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada have their primaries or caucuses in January 2008. On Feb. 5, 2008, California joins Oklahoma, Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina and Utah to make this the most "super" Tuesday. And Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Texas, West Virginia, Michigan and Wisconsin are considering changing their primary dates to Feb. 5, as well.
This means an early winner will force several not-so-wealthy competitors out of the race.

Momentum is more important than ever, so don't be surprised when the contest gets vicious. Remember how candidate George W. Bush went after John McCain in South Carolina in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004? Republican and Democratic "swift boaters" of all sorts will surface to help their candidate win.

Over the next 10 to 12 months, presidential hopefuls will spend the most money in primary history. For the first time ever, winning an Oklahoma primary could give a candidate something to crow about. More importantly, candidates want Oklahoma money and several already have come collecting.

Oklahoma television and radio stations will have a bonanza from presidential candidates who blow fortunes on our airwaves. They'll be buying newspaper ads, billboards and calling us at home to tell us why they should be the nation's 44th president. Political parties also love these candidates since most will pay the parties a small fortune for mailing lists. Sens. Christopher Dodd and John Edwards already have paid $200,000 to the Democratic parties in Iowa and New Hampshire for their lists. Both of those states are smaller than Oklahoma " so if Oklahoma's party chairs are smart, they'll get their piece of the pie.

The price of a presidency has put the office out of reach for some very qualified and intelligent prospects. Sadly, candidates with the most money aren't always the smartest or most-qualified people running. Raising $50 million to $100 million this year is a challenge out of reach for most candidates. It pays to be a candidate from a big city or major state, or to have a father who was president, or to have run for president previously since you already have the contacts and infrastructure to jump-start a campaign. Politics is more about who you know than what you know. The 2008 candidates with the most money probably will come out of the starting blocks first, and given the large number of early primaries, that could be enough to wrap up the nomination by March.

At a time when we are at war, with more than 3,200 dead GIs, huge federal deficits and an enormous national debt, poor international relations, threats of nuclear disaster, 78 million rapidly aging baby boomers, a few economic issues and a Congress and nation pretty severely divided, it might be nice to have a mature, balanced, frugal, less political and more statesmanlike, well-educated, experienced leader who understands how to solve problems and mend fences. Just something to think about as you listen to the candidates. It's not about party " it's about America's future.

Orza is dean of the Meinders School of Business at Oklahoma City University.

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