Would-Be Presidential Candidates Get Early Starts

Many Americans are planning time off this summer to take a break at the beach, the lake or in the mountains. But for those with political ambitions in 2008, the summer of 2005 is no time for kicking back.

"There's no question about it. Presidential campaigns are starting earlier, certainly a couple years before the election," said Stu Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report.

Sometimes, potential presidential candidates get started as early as four years before. Last November, then-Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards (search) was readying himself for life as a private citizen after he and presidential running mate John Kerry (search) lost the 2004 election.

Seven months later, Edwards is looking very much like a man running for president. Last week, the former North Carolina senator spoke at the Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH annual convention in Chicago. Before that, in Iowa, he gave a campaign-like speech.

"We can create a symphony and that symphony can stir the soul of this country and we can end the injustice that's poverty in America today!" Edwards told WOI-TV in Des Moines.

Edwards is not alone. Democrats including New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (search), Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (search) of New York, Joe Biden (search) of Delaware and Kerry of Massachusetts, and Republicans like Sens. Bill Frist (search) of Tennessee, John McCain (search) of Arizona and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (search) have all spent considerable time outside their home states.

Experts say obvious benefits come to presidential candidates who get out early.

"Money is an important thing and people want to raise the money," said Andrew McKenna, chairman of the Illinois Republican Party.

The 2004 candidates from President Bush on down collectively spent more than $700 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics so getting an early start and gathering up campaign staffers in critical early states has its advantages.

One catch, however, may be to act like a presidential candidate without actually declaring a White House bid.

"Somebody who gets out too early and is too explicit about running for president certainly can cause a backlash back at home," Rothenberg said.

Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Steve Brown.