Ever since Michael Jordan left the Bulls, the Western Conference has had a disproportionate amount of the better teams. Unfortunately, this means that the finals are sometimes lopsided and not very exciting. This year was one of the more extreme examples, with the Spurs rolling over the Cavaliers in the Finals. It seems likely as well that 3 or 4 other Western teams wouldn't have had much more trouble. This leads to boring championships, and since championships are where you get the marginal fans interested in the game, this is bad for the NBA.
Sportswriters are aware of this and respond by calling the Western Conference finals the "real" Finals. That will be the most the most difficult series that the (likely) eventual champion will have to face. And again, this year's match-up between the Suns and Spurs bore this out.
I suspect there is a similar dynamic in this presidential election. The Democrats are coming off of a convincing victory in the 2006 election and Bush, unlike Clinton after the Republican victory in 1994, has not substantively changed the controversial policies or rhetoric that led to this victory. Thus, any Democratic candidate will go into this election as a strong favorite to win--meaning that the "real" election for president will be in the Democratic primaries.
I suspect this is one of the reasons why the primary season has started so much earlier and the candidates are spending so much more money now. You focus most on your toughest opponents, and this election it looks likely that will be the Democratic primary candidate.
But then why are the Republican candidates also doing the same? I think a lot of the attention focused on the Republican candidates is due to spillover, or equal time considerations. Like an arms race, if the Democrats start earlier, the Republicans must as well. Perhaps this is also why the Republican field seems so muddled right now--they just aren't ready for the media onslaught of the primary season.
Of course, there are other reasons as well for the early primary season. Bush and the Republican Senators have fairly clearly shown that they are unwilling to work with the Democratic Party's policy goals. The Democrats justifiably feel that they will just have to wait until Bush is gone to make substantive changes in foreign and domestic policy. Hence, focusing on putting a Democrat in office is the best way for the Democrats to achieve the goals that led to their victory in 2006.
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