Presidential politicking for 1996 has already begun in earnest -- in an official way. California's legislature has just voted to move its primary up to March. In the past the most populous state has voted in June, a month or more after the effective decision on presidential nominees had been made.
Conventional wisdom is that the 1996 Republican nomination will be locked up by early April because so many delegates will be chosen so early. Conventional wisdom also has it that only a well-known insider can get the Republican nomination, since so much depends on raising huge sums of campaign money between now and early 1996. California, Texas, Florida and New York, expensive states all, are expected again to hold early primaries in 1996.
Conventional wisdom may be wrong. Super Tuesday was supposed to ensure the nomination of a nationally known Democrat in 1988 and 1992, but two little-known governors, Michael Dukakis and Bill Clinton, won instead. However, if Republicans are stuck with the candidates who are already nationally known or who have great fund-raising advantages, that means the GOP's list is short: Sen. Bob Dole, Jack Kemp, probably Sen. Phil Gramm, maybe Dick Cheney.
And maybe Ross Perot, although Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran called him a "shrill demagogue" and made it clear he and other Republicans would treat him as an invader.
There is another potential nominee: Gen. Colin Powell. He is one of the few Republicans who is strong in both wings of the party. Pat Robertson endorsed him. Moderate Republicans, especially internationalists, look to him the way their predecessors looked to Dwight Eisenhower 42 years ago.
The general has consistently indicated he is lukewarm, at best, about a political career. He reaffirmed that recently, telling the Associated Press, "I don't want to spend the rest of my life giving speeches." But he has also been consistent in refusing to make an irrevocable Sherman-like statement of non-candidacy, and he told the AP he "would not rule anything out."