With a couple of potential candidates (Fred Thompson on the Republican side, and Al Gore on the Democratic side) still watching from the sidelines, isnít it too soon to be holding presidential debates? Perhaps not, when you consider that two dozen states will be holding primary elections eight months from today.

Of course, Texas will not be one of them. A bill that would have changed the Texas primary election date from March 4, 2008, to Feb. 5 died in the Senate, and some observers are convinced this failure to act by the Texas Legislature will mean voters in other states will have made the decisions for us by the time Texans arrive at the polls. The first Saturday in February will almost be a national primary day.

Other political experts are less pessimistic, especially given the wide-open campaign that both parties are experiencing. The possibility exists that no consensus will have developed by March, and that would make Texas the primary battleground for the deciding delegates.

Texas sends the second-highest number of delegates to the GOP national convention, with 140, a total topped only by California. The state sends the third-highest number to the Democratic National Convention, with 228, after California and New York.

Texas will also has a chance to exert some influence in the nominating process among Republican candidates later this summer. State GOP leaders are planning a straw poll in Fort Worth over the Labor Day weekend and expect between 12,000 and 15,000 people to attend. They also hope to attract most, and maybe all, of the GOP field of candidates.

Meanwhile, county and state officials in Texas who will also appear on those primary ballots are breathing a sigh of relief. A February primary would mean a campaign season for them that would necessarily begin a month earlier, meaning that the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays would be consumed by politics and campaigning. Decisions by candidates on whether to run for office would have to be made sooner, and election workers would have to get their plans made much earlier as well.

Voters who think itís all getting started too soon might want to breath a sigh of relief, too.

Brownwood Bulletin