Olympics a welcome respite from politics
It's late summer and for a restful while, athletics has shoved politics aside.
Medal counts trump polls. The U.S. Dream Team is on a roll, and the quarrelling over the future of the American dream is on mute for a time.
Beach volleyball reigns. Approved messages, not so much.
Thank you, London Olympics.
This is as close to a hiatus as presidential electioneering gets during a leap year.
For now, apart from Mitt Romney's briefly awkward London cameo and our new familiarity with dressage, the campaign has mostly retreated from view.
It's been nice, but it won't last. Once the XXX Olympiad flame is extinguished Sunday, it's back to that other quadrennial competition: the Presidential Election LVI.
Ever since Roone Arledge took the Olympics into prime time with the 1968 Mexico City Games, political leaders have emptied the stage once the Games are underway.
It's a tradition - a much needed two-week vacation from presidential combat.
President Reagan at the 1984 Los Angeles Games and President Clinton in Atlanta in 1996 presided over the opening ceremonies, showcasing their reelection bids.
But mostly, presidential combatants have been smart enough to save their best efforts for later, when we're paying attention. Good politicians know when to be scarce.
Since Arledge's time, no candidate has rolled out a vice-presidential pick, and no party has dared hold its national convention while the Olympians rule the airways. Two milestones of the presidential wars prudently take a back seat to the athletes.
Hoping to preempt George W. Bush's 2004 convention bounce, Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe tried to use the out-party prerogative of being first to choose its convention dates to maneuver the Republicans into competing with the Athens Games. It didn't work.
Faced with being overshadowed by the Olympics or waiting until after the games, the GOP paid homage to the Olympians by holding the first September convention in U.S. history. Once the games ended, the GOP commanded the bigger audience, vaulting Bush into his first real lead of the campaign, one he never relinquished.
Now the politicos are primed to reclaim center stage.
Within days, Mitt Romney will introduce us to his running mate and the party gatherings in Tampa and Charlotte will quickly follow, clearing the way for the fall campaign to begin in exhausting earnest. Before we know it, 60 million or so of us, about twice the nightly audience for the Olympics, will sit down to watch the presidential debates, not Usain Bolt.
But take heart - there's still time. I see the Dream Team is playing on Sunday.
Tom Hannon currently teaches American politics and media at the Johns Hopkins Advanced Academic Program in Washington, D.C. He was Political Director of CNN News Group and led the network's reporting on national politics from 1988 through 2006.
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