The adage in American politics is that campaigns for the White House keep getting longer.
Well, toss out that idea.
The 2012 race for the Republican presidential nomination is a campaign in super slow motion, with only a handful of candidates raising money, a slew of possible contenders eye-balling the race and no consensus front-runner in sight.
Although few voters said they were eager for another multimillion-dollar campaign, some Republicans were worried that the slow start could undermine GOP prospects at a time when President Barack Obama was widely viewed as vulnerable. A recent Gallup Poll concluded that 42 percent of Americans approved of the job he was doing while 50 percent disapproved.
"I'm a little concerned," said Blue Springs Mayor Carson Ross, a former Republican state lawmaker. "At this point, I'm not sure we will field a candidate that can beat Barack."
Others are confident that a candidate will emerge who can galvanize the party.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, who at this point four years ago was running for the White House himself, said last week that much depends on the issues facing the country next year.
"Today it's the economy and the deficit," he said. "But fast forward a year ... it's just not known. That's why these things take odd bounces. They bounce like a football."
Brownback, too, has been surprised at the slow unwinding of the race and said it could work against his party. "It could have an impact because a day gone is a day without building infrastructure and organization to run," he said.
At the same point four years ago, the presidential race in both parties was at a quick pace. In early April 2007, Hillary Clinton announced a record $26 million raised in the first three months of the year only to find out that Obama had raised $25 million, and a resurgent John Edwards had banked more than $14 million.
Meantime, Republican John McCain was being tagged as a former frontrunner for a lackluster fund-raising quarter and declining poll numbers.
This year, only four candidates have formed presidential exploratory committees to begin raising campaign cash: former Louisiana Gov. "Buddy" Roemer; Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty; Herman Cain, the former chairman and CEO of Godfather's Pizza; and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Organizers of a May 2 GOP presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley, Calif., just postponed the event until September. The reason: too few candidates.
A similar debate at the library in May 2007 drew 10 candidates, including Brownback.
By this time in 2007, at least 17 Democratic and Republican candidates were off and running.
This year, a crop of contenders is considering the race, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. Two governors, Mississippi's Haley Barbour and Indiana's Mitch Daniels, may be waiting for the end of legislative sessions before announcing plans.
Some Republicans are fretting openly about a lackluster field.
"I don't see anyone in the current field right now, and people say that to me as well. I'm reflecting what I hear," California Congressman David Dreier, chairman of the House Rules Committee, told Politico, a political news website.
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