How have you spent your time in the past decade or so?
Obama has spent a lot of that time campaigning for higher office — just about half, in fact. Let’s work backwards from November of this year.
2008: Barring some nefarious plot by Hillary Clinton, Obama will be running for president until November. For purposes of this exercise, we’ll count this as 11 months of campaigning.
2007: Announced exploratory committee on January 16. Formally announced presidential campaign on February 10. I’m counting all 12 months.
2006: Serving in U.S. Senate. While some would argue Obama was unofficially campaigning already, including appearing at events in Iowa, for the purposes of this calculation we will count his campaigning as starting from the announcement of the exploratory committee. 0 months.
2005: Serving in U.S. Senate. 0 months.
2004: Running for U.S. Senate; elected in November. 11 months.
2003: Running for U.S. Senate. 12 months.
2002: Spent half the year preparing the groundwork for his U.S. Senate campaign; he launched his campaign committee in late June. His campaign often cites the 2002 antiwar rally as a key moment in his campaign. 6 months.
2001: Serving in Illinois State Legislature. 0 months.
2000: Lost the March 21 House primary against Rep. Bobby Rush. 3 months.
1999: Announces bid to challenge Rep. Bobby Rush in September. 4 months.
1998: Serving in Illinois State Legislature. 0 months.
There are 120 months from November 1998 to November 2008. Of those 120 months, Obama was campaigning for higher office in 59 of them, or about 49.1 percent.
If you begin counting from September 1999, there are 112 months between then and November 2008, and Obama has been campaigning for higher office in 52.6 percent of those months. (This does not count any campaigning to retain his seat in the state legislature.)
In other words, Obama has spent about half of the past decade campaigning for higher office.
How much time has John McCain spent campaigning his past decade? He formed his 2000 exploratory committee on December 30, 1998, and suspended his campaign in March 2000. He announced he was forming his exploratory committee for this cycle in November 2006. (I’m not going to count John McCain’s campaign for reelection to the Senate, as I suspect he broke as much sweat as Obama did in getting reelected to the state legislature.) That totals 40 months — one-third of the past decade.