Hope for America. Hopefully.

The last time I wrote anything about Campaign 2008, it was basically about how it was way too early, and I couldn’t be bothered. I believe that column appeared in print shortly after New Year’s Day 2007, and I’m probably not exaggerating all that much.

Well, it’s certainly time to whistle a more urgent tune. The game gets going in a hurry from here, and about one month after January 1st, the races for the nomination in each party could well be over. If you’ve been waiting for the homestretch of all this frighteningly expensive, telephone-invading hustle to make your decision, it’s time to step up, do the homework, and make your call. This ain’t your father’s primary/caucus schedule … it’s not even 2004’s.

The first punch gets thrown only two days after New Year’s in Iowa on J-3. Three days into 2008! This makes the Iowa caucus the earliest in history, involving both Dems (57 delegates) and the GOP (40). After Iowa, it’s full-tilt boogie and game on, made possible by a few upstart states, including Nevada, who moved up in the schedule in order to play a more significant role in the national process. We got away with that move; other states didn’t.

Michigan, for example, got bold and got slapped. It moved its primary up to Jan. 15, which then forced the hand of New Hampshire, which has a state law that says its primary must be the first in the country (not the first caucus, but the first primary). When Michigan made its move, N.H. then made its countermove, pushing its primary up a couple of weeks to Tuesday J-8. Sending a big scowl to Michigan for causing the hassle without first obtaining permission, the Democratic National Committee stripped the state of its delegates to the convention.

After Michigoons do their thing, the next action is right here in Nevada, with party caucuses taking place on Saturday, Jan. 19. We’ve got 33 delegates up for grabs, and since we’re the only action on that date, it seems safe to speculate that we’ll indeed get the bit of the spotlight we wanted in the first place. Our move up in the schedule was done with the blessing of the DNC, which allowed both us and South Carolina to re-schedule in January.

South Carolina has its primary on the following Saturday. Florida goes on Dec. 29 (like Michigan, Florida’s delegates were stripped for its unauthorized re-scheduling), and then, the whole thing comes to a serious exclamation point on Tuesday, Feb. 5. That’s when no less than 22 states get together for a Super Blort of primaries and caucuses that will determine the allegiance of 2,075 delegates. (Californians, this is your day.)

So, yeah, if you’ve been a little casual about taking part in the process, give yourself a hot foot. The Parties’ parties get into gear about 40 hours after your black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day.