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'Raw Politics': DeSoto goes to the White House

  • Story Highlights
  • Campaigning is tough and the pressure never lets up, says CNN's Tom Foreman
  • Clinton, McCain, Obama have been campaigning for more than a year
  • The general election is still about seven months away
  • Campaigning is just the down payment on the presidency, Foreman says
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By Tom Foreman
CNN Washington Bureau
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"Raw Politics" on "Anderson Cooper 360" delivers the latest political news with a wry sense of a humor and without spin.

(CNN) -- When I ran marathons, I took heart from the kind souls who lined the route in those torturous last few miles.

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Sen. John McCain officially announced he was running for president in April 2007.

In clusters of three or four, they would wave, cheer and hold out orange slices or bits of banana.

Sometimes they had funny signs like, "Which great explorer finishes every marathon? DeSoto." Say it out loud; it's still not funny but you'll get it -- "the sore toe."

The point is, when you are struggling along with blistered feet, aching legs and lungs that feel like Shredded Wheat, it is awfully nice to have a stranger give you a pat on the back.

I was thinking of that this week as I watched the candidates slog through another day of campaigning. I looked at the calendar and mentally counted the months until November. Well, OK, I counted them on my fingers. Seven months. And all the candidates have been running much longer than that already.

Sen. Hillary Clinton was first to announce in January of 2007. Sen. Barack Obama said he was running in February. And Sen. John McCain made his bid official in April, after an earlier, soft launch on Letterman.

Think of everything you've done since then. You went on vacation, changed jobs, bought a dog, planted tulips, ate barbeque, went to the library and attended a wedding. They've been running.

You heard a great joke, learned to kayak, got hooked on The Office, knitted a scarf and argued with your cousin. They've been running. You got sick on a roller coaster, burned the biscuits, dyed your hair, broke a window and finally figured out Zippy the Pinhead. And they've been running.

Campaigns are tough. Up before dawn to work the radio shows and stop by the diners, three stump speeches in three towns before noon, kiss a baby, pet a dog, pose for a photo, sign an autograph. Ride a bus, hop a plane, in cars, out of cars.

More stump speeches, more interviews. Phone calls, text messages, e-mail, faxes. Questions from TV, radio, newspaper, and Internet journalists. Questions from voters, opponents, supporters, and colleagues. Photo ops, commercial shoots, schedule reviews, staff issues, budget discussions and fundraising, fundraising, fundraising. A distant hotel, on the faceless edge of a nameless town, a few hours of fitful sleep -- and the sun is threatening to rise again.

Sure, they get breaks. They take a moment to chat with their families or a friend. Maybe grab an odd few hours to rest, or a day to prepare for the next big confrontation.

But the scrutiny never takes a break, and the pressure never eases, and there is never a moment from their entry into the race until their exit that they can count on nothing happening. At any moment, on any day, they can make the misstep that craters everything.

And all of that is just the down payment on the presidency.

No one forced them to run, and not one candidate is asking for sympathy. (Not like we would give it if they did ask, but still.) To the contrary, they spend hours every day making it seem like there is no place else where they would rather be. Maybe that is true.

Maybe a unique feature of these people who dream of being president is that they really do want that job so much that they love the campaign pace. Maybe that is a measure of their greatness. Or a type of lunacy.

Some reporters say they never get tired of campaign seasons, but I do. Sometimes I turn off the radio or TV, crash the computer and shut down my phone. I run to the edge of the Potomac River, I hold my Blackberry aloft and scream "Sic Semper Tyrannis," (Latin for "thus always to tyrants") then I fling it far out into the muddy depths. Not really. But you understand.

My father has always said, "Never trust anyone who will spend millions of dollars to get a job that won't let him earn back the money."

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Being president pays $400,000 a year. Not a bad payday, but by the time this election is done the next president will have to be in office something like, oh, say 1500 years, to earn back what he or she will spend to win.

Which is about as long as this campaign already feels. Perhaps we should cut up some oranges. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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