How do the presidential primaries work

By George Garza
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What are the Presidential Primaries and how do they work
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Political party presidential nominees weren't always chosen the way we choose them today. Originally, nominees were chosen by Congress. This process evolved into being chosen by political movers and shakers within the political parties. Eventually, the process of choosing a nominee became very similar to the current nominating process. Designated party delegates attended political party nominating conventions. The delegates were ordinary people who were interested in politics and had worked at the state level, most likely as volunteers. The candidate that received a majority of the delegate vote became the nominee of the party. It was felt that this method was the best way to democratize the process by allowing more people to become involved.

In theory, this would seem like a simple and expedient method of choosing a presidential candidate. But there were times, before for the primary system was instituted, when delegates would change their pledges of support for a particular candidate. When this happened, ballots would have to be cast several times before one candidate would emerge as a clear-cut winner. In the Democratic convention of 1924, delegates had to cast their ballots 103 times before a presidential nominee could be chosen.

The Smoke Filled Rooms And there were times when a clear majority was not possible. If gridlock occurred at conventions, power brokers would get together in a back room and hammer out a compromise. There were times when the nominee was well known and there were other times when the nominee wasn't well-known at all. Warren G. Harding, of Ohio, was considered a dark horse candidate because he was not well-known when he was chosen by the Republican Party. He went on to win the Presidency. The Democrats also used the same method to break the gridlock of the 1924 convention and chose the now famous John Davis. If you never heard of him, you're not alone because most of the delegates at that convention hadn't either. He was a compromise candidate who went down to defeat.

The Rise of the Primaries It became apparent that conventions worked well if there were only two candidates that everyone could agree on, even if it took a few ballots and a little arm twisting to arrive at a nominee that everyone could agree on. But what if there were more than two candidates? The answer came in the form of the political primary system. It was decided that states would hold primary elections on designated dates.

How do the Presidential Primaries work? The presidential primary in the Democratic process by which the nominating convention delegates determine which candidate will be nominated for president from their state. In general, the delegates pledge their nominating votes to the candidate who wins the primary election in their state. In some states the delegate is required to cast a vote for whichever candidate wins the primary. In other states, delegates are not bound to the outcome of the primary election. The number of delegates differs for each party. The Republicans have 1,259 delegates while the Democrats have 2,161. The nominee who receives a majority of party delegate votes will get the nomination when the delegates convene at the national nominating convention.

A couple of primary election facts you may not know:

Timing is everything Traditionally, the first state to hold a presidential primary is New Hampshire. May 2004 primary was held in January. Many large states, including California, have moved their primaries up to February in an effort to become more of an influence in the election process. It is thought that the candidate who wins the early primaries will win all of the primaries.

Super Tuesday In 1988, fifteen southern and southwestern states began holding their primaries on the same day. Choosing hundreds of delegates in one day has significantly altered the dynamics of presidential primaries. The Iowa Caucus Iowa holds a state caucus instead of a primary. A caucus is a meeting, open to all registered voters of the party, where political party delegates are chosen. Caucus delegates are not pledged to any particular candidate. For this reason a caucus is considered more significant for gauging the popularity of candidates and then for choosing delegates.

The presidential primary process has undergone many changes over the years. It is almost certain that the answer to the question, "How do the presidential primaries work?" will continue to undergo changes in the years to come.

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