IS THERE EVER a respite from the round of presidential campaigning? There is and it is now. Very few of the nation's 13 presidential candidates will be campaigning in the days between Christmas and the new year. Some campaign offices are closing down too: Bruce Babbitt's press secretary gives the Presidential Hotline a "don't contact" vacation phone number. Candidates and staffers are usually bone-tired, and this is one of the few chances they get to relax. Even political pollsters quit interviewing for the final days of the year: opinion may be changing out there, people may be mellowing in a yuletide glow toward the field of candidates, or they may be crying "Humbug!" at them all the louder, but no one will ever know. You can't get people to answer questions or even ask them over the holidays.

As you enjoy this political respite, reflect on this fact: even though you may think it hasn't started, the 1988 presidential campaign is more than half over. It was 16 months ago that Michigan Republicans elected the precinct delegates to whom the state party delegated the choice of presidential candidates; it is only a little more than 10 months till next November's election. The first half of the campaign period has belonged to the political insiders and professionals; this last part will belong to the voters, or as many of them as choose to vote. The first half has produced more debate on substance than before and has provided a notoriously flimsy idea of what the leading candidates are about; the second half, we can hope, will produce quite a bit more substance and, in our majority-forcing system, must eventually produce two major party nominees and, barring an unforeseen third-party candidacy, an electoral college majority for the man who will be president-elect a year from today.

That's right, just a year from today. It will be during the high and unstable days of the transition, and you can bet that Winner & Co. will not be taking the day off. This may be your last respite from politics for years. Enjoy it.