focused retail campaigns of Iowa and New Hampshire, the surviving
enter a dizzying array of primaries. Frontloading has
the primary calendar to the extent that in 2000, 42% of Republican
and 39% of Democratic delegates were selected by March 7.
must decide where to concentrate their efforts and resources as they
around the country trying to hit key media markets and win enough
to gain their party nominations.
How the Primary System Works
Delegates to the national conventions are selected through state primaries and caucuses. Presidential primaries and caucuses take place in a four-month period between February and June. Each state party has its own set of rules for selecting delegates; these plans are subject to approval of the Republican National Committee or the Democratic National Committee, respectively, and must also be in accord with state election law. (In most states, the legislature actually sets the date and general format for the primary or caucuses). A few states like Iowa still use a multi-tiered caucus system, but most now have primaries.
Caucuses are a multi-stage process that typically begins at the precinct level and proceeds through a series of steps to a state convention. Because the caucus system requires a citizen to take the time to go to a meeting and sit through some speeches, there is generally a very low participation rate. On the plus side, caucuses entail a deeper level of participation and involvement than merely going to the polling place to cast a ballot. Caucuses can be an inspiring example of democracy at work.
The specifics of primaries vary from state to state. In a closed primary, only party members can vote in the primary. In an open primary, the voter need not be registered as a member of a particular party to vote in that party's primary. A blanket primary is an extreme case of an open primary where the voter faces a ballot which has the names of all the candidates running for the office irrespective of party.
Generally, delegates are awarded in each congressional district, and there are also at-large delegates allotted according to statewide performance. On the Republican side, some states use a winner-take-all system, where the primary winner gets all the state's delegates. (Democratic rules "exclude the use of the unit rule at any level.") Finally, in addition to the pledged delegates up for grabs in the primary, Democrats have a category of unpledged delegates, comprising elected officials and party leaders.
The overall number of delegates and alternates each state will send to the conventions is set by the national party committees using allocation formulas that reflect state populations, but also take into account party strength and other factors. As an example, California, with a population of about 32 million, will send 434 delegates to the 2000 Democratic National Convention out of a total of 4,335 (10.0%) and 162 of 2,066 delegates to the 2000 Republican National Convention (7.8%), while New Hampshire, with a population of 1.2 million will send 29 delegates (0.7%) to the Democratic Convention and 17 delegates (0.8%) to the Republican Convention.
By tradition Iowa and New Hampshire are accorded first status; other states' contests occur in a four-month period between February and June known as the window. In 2000 the two parties' windows differed somewhat. Democratic rules set out a period between the first Tuesday in March and the second Tuesday in June, and had a special provision for the Iowa precinct caucuses and the New Hampshire primary to go earlier. [Rule 10A, Delegate Selection Rules for the 2000 Democratic National Convention]. Republican rules for 2000 were more flexible, requiring that the process of selecting delegates occur between the first Monday of February and the third Tuesday of June [Rule No. 32(b)(11)(i)]. As can be seen from the schedule below, this created a very different pacing in the early part of the Democratic and Republican races.
The calendar also
effects of frontloading.
To an unprecedented degree individual states sought to move their
as far forward as the rules permitted so that their voters would have a
say in the selection of the parties' nominees. This led to a huge
clumping of contests on March 7, Mega Tuesday.
Alaska Republican straw poll/caucuses.
|Feb. 1||New Hampshire.||New Hampshire.|
|Feb. 19||South Carolina.|
|Feb. 22||Arizona Republican primary; Michigan Republican primary.|
|Feb. 26||Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam.|
|Feb. 27||Puerto Rico.|
Dakota Republican caucuses.
Virginia Republican primary.
|California, Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New
Minnesota Republican caucuses.
|California, Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New
Hawaii Democratic caucuses.
Idaho Democratic caucuses.
North Dakota Democratic caucuses.
Washington Democratic caucuses.
American Samoa Dem. caucuses/conv.
|March 9||.||South Carolina Democratic caucuses.|
|Colorado, Utah, Wyoming caucuses.||Colorado, Utah.|
Michigan Democratic caucuses.
|Minnesota Democratic caucuses.|
|March 12||.||Nevada Democratic precinct meetings.|
|Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas.||Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas.|
|March 18||Guam Democratic caucuses.|
Nevada Republican precinct meetings.
|March 25||.||Wyoming Democratic caucuses.|
|March 26||.||Puerto Rico.|
|March 27||.||Delaware Democratic caucuses.|
|April 1||Virgin Islands Democratic caucuses.|
|April 4||Pennsylvania, Wisconsin.||Pennsylvania, Wisconsin.|
|Virginia Democratic caucuses.|
|April 22||Alaska Democratic caucuses.|
|May 2||Indiana, North Carolina, DC.||Indiana, North Carolina, DC.|
|May 6||Kansas congressional district caucuses|
|May 9||Nebraska, West Virginia.||Nebraska, West Virginia.|
|May 19||Hawaii Republican caucuses.|
|May 23||Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky.||Arkansas, Kentucky.|
|May 25||Kansas state comm. meeting|
|June 6||Alabama, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota.||Alabama, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota.1|
|Third Party Nominating
The exigencies of ballot access affect how third parties choose their nominees. Thus the U.S. Taxpayers Party presidential ticket was chosen by delegates meeting at a convention in St. Louis over Labor Day weekend in September 1999. Under rules adopted by the Reform Party, presidential candidates must first qualify for the party's primary ballot by obtaining ballot access, as an independent, in a number of states where the party does not have ballot status. On July 4, 2000 the primary ballot will be distributed; the results will be announced at the party's convention in August.
After a candidate has gained enough delegates to win the party nomination it may be several months until the convention. How the candidate uses this time can have an important effect on his or her success in the fall. For example, in 1992 Bill Clinton used the month of June to regroup following a tough passage through the primaries. In 1996 Bob Dole had essentially won the nomination by mid-March, but he faced the period from April to the convention with virtually no funds. In June, Dole gained much attention when he surprised everyone by resigning his Senate seat.
Conventional wisdom is that the presumptive nominees must move back to the center after playing to more committed or extreme elements of their respective parties to win in the primaries. Gov. George W. Bush effectively secured the Republican nomination on March 7, 2000; during late March and April he introduced a reading initiative, a plan to clean up brownfields, a "New Prosperity Initiative" to help people move from poverty to the middle class and a health care plan. More such proposals followed in the months leading up to the convention. For Vice President Gore, however, there were some bumps. He moved his campaign headquarters to a third location and brought on a new campaign chairman, while weathering concerns about his polling numbers. In June Gore launched a "Progress and Prosperity" tour.
Also during this period between the end of the primaries and the conventions, the presumptive nominees bolster their campaign organizations and place key people in the national party committees to prepare for the general election.
Vice Presidential Picks
Finally, there are the vice presidential selections to consider. On April 6 Vice President Al Gore named Warren Christopher to lead his vice presidential search. Christopher is a senior partner at the Los Angeles law firm of O'Melveny & Myers. He led then Gov. Clinton's vice presidential search in 1992 and served as secretary of state during Clinton's first term. On April 25 Gov. Bush named former defense secretary and White House chief of staff Dick Cheney to head his vice presidential search.
on out of the public eye, but that does not prevent pundits from
the strengths and weaknesses of the various prospects. From week
to week, this name or that name is touted as the likely favorite;
grows, there is a short list and rumors as to who is on it, and finally
the announcement. Bush announced
his selection of Cheney in Austin on July 25; Gore named
Sen. Joe Lieberman in Nashville on Aug. 8.
Brigham Young University--Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy's Report on Issue Advocacy in the 2000 Presidential Primaries (July 17, 2000)
Annenberg Public Policy Center -- "The 2000 Nominating Campaign: Endorsements, Attacks, And Debates" (July 10, 2000) (pdf)
Vanishing Voter Project -- "Public Involvement and the 2000 Nominating Campaign: Implications for Electoral Reform" (April 27, 2000)
Annenberg Public Policy Center -- "The Primary Campaign: What Did the Candidates Say, What Did the Public Learn, and Did it Matter?" (March 27, 2000) (pdf)
Rules of the Republican Party
Charter and Bylaws of the Democratic National Committee (pdf)
Reform Party Rules for Selection of Nominees for President and Vice President
Old Info--Delegate Watch
Shorenstein Center Research Paper R-19 "COMMUNICATION PATTERNS IN PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARIES 1912-2000: Knowing the Rules of the Game," Kathleen E. Kendall. June, 1998.
Old Info: Maneuvering to
Delegate Selection Rules for the 2000 Democratic National Convention
Adopted by the Democratic National Committee at its meeting on May 9, 1998
10. Timing of the Delegate Selection Process
A. No meetings, caucuses, conventions or primaries which constitute the first determining stage in the presidential nomination process (the date of the primary in primary states, and the date of the first tier caucus in caucus states) may be held prior to the first Tuesday in March or after the second Tuesday in June in the calendar year of the national convention. Provided, however, that the Iowa precinct caucuses may be held no earlier than 15 days before the first Tuesday in March; that the New Hampshire primary may be held no earlier than 7 days before the first Tuesday in March; that the Maine first tier caucuses may be held no earlier than 2 days before the first Tuesday in March. In no instance may a state which scheduled delegate selection procedures on or between the first Tuesday in March and the second Tuesday in June 1984 move out of compliance with the provisions of this rule.Rules of the Republican Party
Adopted by the 1996 Republican National Convention August 12, 1996
Rule No. 32 (b) (11) (i)
no presidential primary, caucus, convention, or other meeting may be held for the purpose of voting for a presidential candidate and/or selecting delegates or alternate delegates to the national convention, prior to the first Monday of February or after the third Tuesday of June in the year in which the national convention is held;Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000 Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action.