It's also the time when candidates road-test messages, strategies, speeches and ads for the general election. Not to mention the fact that it's the run-up to the all-important party convention, and the time when the candidates pick their running mates.
That way, by the fall, each party nominee will be a "man in full," with a ticket, a message and a game plan. That is, if all goes well.
So far, this summer has been full of charges and counter-charges, but nothing has moved the dial much. The Obama campaign used the summertime lull to beef up its foreign policy cred with a trip to the Middle East and Europe, ending with a rally in front of 200,000 people in Berlin, Germany.
By most accounts, the trip was a success, but judging from the polls, it was a nonstarter. Never mind the extraordinary pictures or even Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's timely support for Obama's troop withdrawal plan. American's either weren't impressed or weren't paying much attention.
And that was the whole problem for Sen. John McCain. If the public wasn't glued to its television sets watching Obama, it was paying even less attention to McCain.
The campaign needed to find a way to break through all of the noise about Obama, and tried -- if a tad desperately -- to do so. First came the charge, hotly disputed, that Obama decided to go to the gym rather than meet with the troops. The McCain campaign had more success breaking through with the Britney-Paris ad, which made for good television, but left lots of independent voters (and rank-and-file Republicans) scratching their heads.
Election Center 2008
Then came the grenade: McCain campaign manager Rick Davis charged that Obama had played the race card in a speech. Obama denied it, but it made news. Finally, the "Obama as Moses" Web video -- this time, silly, but talked about.
During this summer interlude, the McCain campaign made a key strategic decision: Turn the fact that this campaign is about...