Here's When You Can Expect Primary Polls To Really Start Mattering

Hint: It's not yet.

The 2016 campaign already feels like it's been going on forever. But if one thing's been consistent over the past three presidential elections, it's that closely contested primaries don't tend to start shaking out until considerably later in the election cycle.

As GOP strategist Patrick Ruffini points out with a series of HuffPost Pollster's charts:

In all four of the last contested primary contests, a consensus quickly formed around one candidate just after actual voting started in the early caucus and primary states. Voters who had been largely disengaged from the campaign tuned in and made up their minds. That process is likely to repeat in early 2016.

There is a real campaign currently underway -- the "invisible primary" in which candidates woo party insiders, raise funds, and build grassroots organizations -- but polls of all partisans nationwide are a poor measure of its progress. Polls will start pointing to a likely winner, but not yet. Not until voters start voting.