The period of campaigning that takes place in the year prior to a presidential election is what political scientists sometimes refer to as the 'invisible primary.' It is the time when the hopefuls are spending vast amounts of time building their organizations and wooing voters in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. It is a time of 'retail politics' where candidates and voters get plenty of face to face exposure to one another, a chance to ask (and have answered) the hard questions, and above all, the opportunity to prove oneself a viable candidate for the party nomination. We call it an 'invisible' primary because much of what happens apart from the speeches, town hall meetings, and political ads occurs beneath the surface and in back room negotiations. We call it a 'primary' because even though the public may not be voting, the party elite and the big money donors are aligning with the candidate they will support and raise funds for throughout the campaign. In short, 'silly season' or the 'invisible primary' is largely about separating the serious contenders from those who don't have anything better to do with their time. The ones who prove the most viable will harness the 'bundlers', wealthy, powerful individuals who can raise a lot of money from their equally powerful friends. That's what the invisible primary is all about. That's also why the early polls matter. They may not tell us who will win but they almost certainly tell us who is viable. And they send that signal to the fundraisers each candidate hopes to entice onto his or her side.
Since we're knee deep in the invisible primary I thought it might be nice to take a look at just what the top candidates are saying about their opponents right now. The following are ads from the Mitt Romney website, the Rick Perry website, and Herman Cain's website.
The video below discusses the ramifications for Florida of turning Social Security over to the states as Rick Perry suggests:
The following video by the Perry camp tries to tie Mitt Romney to President Obama's health care reform package
The final video is from the Cain campaign emphasizing his business acumen and the fact that he admits to not having an answer for every question.