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The most important election of a lifetime? So say Gingrich et al.

As Gingrich faces Romney in Florida, he calls 2012 the 'most important election of our lifetime.' Sometimes he compares its significance to the pre-Civil War era. GOP rivals like Santorum and key Democrats like Pelosi are also gasping about the stakes. Time to catch our breath.

Republican presidential candidates, from left, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Ron Paul stand during the National Anthem beginning a debate at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Fla., Jan. 26. Mr. Gingrich calls this "the most important election of our lifetime."

AP Photo/Paul Sancya

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Newt Gingrich sometimes refers to 2012 as "the most important election since 1860," which set the stage for the Civil War. His Republican competitors are a bit less flourishing in their comparison, describing November as the vote of a lifetime (though Mr. Gingrich also uses that phrase). Across the political divide, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi agrees: It's "the most important election of our generation."

If such descriptions sound familiar, it's because Americans hear them every four years. "This is certainly the most important election in my lifetime – not just because I'm running," said Barack Obama to a Wisconsin crowd early in 2008. Democrats and Republicans applied similar language to the Bush-Kerry contest. In his 1976 campaign against Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford said, "Make no mistake – this election will decide the direction America is going to take in its third century of independence."

So every presidential race is the most momentous in modern times – until the next one.


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