For a Canadian looking across our southern border in a pre-presidential election year, by far the most astonishing thing is the length of the campaign. Up here in Canada, our national election campaigns are limited to 35 days, about the same length as campaigns in Britain. And this despite the fact that our politicians have more ground to cover than yours.
The second major difference is the expense. I can't think of a national campaign in Canada that cost any one party more than 12 million dollars. Yet, if I remember correctly, in the first six months of this year Senator Hillary Clinton raised 63 million and is well on the way to raising 100. These figures suggest that it helps enormously to be personally wealthy for a national campaign in the United States and people like John Edwards and Mitt Romney certainly are.
There is no one leading a national party in Canada, from the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper on down, who has any kind of personal fortune. Prime Minister Harper was a political economist, Stephane Dion, the leader of the Liberal opposition, a university professor, the leader of the Socialist party, Bob Layton, also a teacher, and the head of the Quebec separatist party, Gilles Duceppe, a labour leader. (Incidentally public taxes fund a large part of our election campaigns. And that includes federal tax money funding the activities of a separatist party that wants to break up the country. I scarcely think that would happen in the States.
It's difficult for most Canadian political junkies to understand the grueling nature of U.S. campaigns. Here we are still 14 months from the 2008 election and the candidates have already been at it for months.
For example, Senator Clinton makes an early morning speech on the Senate floor, then flies to New Hampshire for half a dozen public appearances, then flies to Iowa and does it all over again. The same with Senator Obama and the others. On the expense thing again. Governor Romney spends up to two million dollars on the votes of a few thousand people in an Iowa straw poll.
All of this makes us wonder a little about how politically sound the whole primary system is. With states like Florida and Michigan falling over each other to position themselves near the head of the parade and states like Iowa and New Hampshire so homogeneous compared to the national profile, is there a danger the early primary results are heavily skewered?
There is no space here to get into our views of the serious contenders on both sides. Another time.