Here come the primaries

Two prospective candidates have publicly pegged March as a likely decision point: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Both are already on campaign footing, with Gingrich speaking in South Carolina Thursday and Pawlenty scheduled for six early-state appearances on a January book tour…

The first of those dates comes on April 1, when the second fundraising quarter of the year begins. Because few if any candidates are expected to be fully active on January 1, when the first three-month fundraising period opens, the second quarter will be an even more crucial test of who can raise presidential-level cash.

The debate schedule is rapidly taking shape: The South Carolina Republican Party will hold one on May 5. Three news outlets – CNN, WMUR-TV and the Union Leader – are teaming up a month later to host the first New Hampshire debate on June 7…

All of that means candidates who want to run conventional presidential campaigns will have to decide whether they’re serious about running for president well before the summer comes along.