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Us Elections And Voting Notes

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ELECTIONS AND VOTING The Invisible Primary The period between candidates declaring their intention to run for the presidency and the first contests of the primary season - important period for a candidate to gain recognition, a war chest and gather the necessary organisation.

Played out mainly in the media - Washington Post, New York Times, CNN's Late Edition or Inside Politics

Oprah Winfrey publically endorsed Obama in 2007

Significance of the invisible primary

A strong showing in the IP is essential - high correlation between who wins and who gains the presidency

Building momentum prior to the primaries is essential - 'winner' of the Democrat IP Hilary Clinton failed to gain the nomination against Obama in 2008

Trend towards front loading makes IPs more important

Front loading - when a number of states schedule their primaries earlier in the cycle in an attempt to increase the importance of their state in choosing the candidates

Primaries and Caucuses Presidential primary - a state based election to choose a party's candidate for the presidency. It shows support for a candidate among ordinary voters and chooses delegates committed to vote for that candidate at the National Party Convention Presidential caucus - a state based series of meetings for the selection of a party's candidate for the presidency. Held in a few geographically large but thinly populated states, caucuses attract unrepresentative and very low turnouts - eg. Iowa, North Dakota and Nevada

Some states (eg. New Hampshire) schedule their primary on a day when no others are being held in an attempt to give there's more importance

Others deliberately hold it on the same day as neighbouring states to formulate a more regional primary

Super Tuesday - a Tuesday in early February when a number of states hold their primaries in order to try to gain influence for their region in the selection of candidates

An increasing number of states attempt to front load - scheduling their primaries early in the election year in an attempt to gain more influence

Open Primaries - A primary election in which any registered voter can vote in the primary

Closed Primaries - A primary election in which only registered Democrats can vote in the Democrat primary and vice versa Cross over voting whereby voters can participate in both party's primaries is an important issue

2008 Democrat primaries - in open primary states, significant numbers of independents and Republicans voted for Barack Obama

Strengths of Primary process

1. Increased level of participation by ordinary voters

In 2008, 54 million people took part in the process (30% of the voting age population) compared to 21% in the 1990s

2. Significant increase in the choice of candidates

In 1968 there were 5 presidential candidates to choose from, in 2008 there were 15 (8 Democrats, 7 Republicans)

3. The process is opened up to outsiders, rather than simply front runners

In 2008, Hilary Clinton was the front runner for the Democrat Party, however a strong showing in the primary allowed Barack Obama to gain a national reputation

4. The hard race of the primaries is seen as a demanding test for a demanding job - allows voters to see who copes well under the pressure and therefore who would be able to fulfil the task as President

In 2008, many thought Obama was a stronger candidate than Clinton after his gruelling primary battle

Weaknesses of Primary process

1. Widespread voter apathy and boredom

Turnout in the primaries is usually only around 19%

When an incumbent is running, turnout tends to be even lower at 17%, as citizens do not feel it is worthwhile to vote

However, turnout sawed to 30% in 2008 when there was no incumbent and Obama was running

2. Primary voters are unrepresentative of the voting-age population

Tend to be older, wealthier and more ideological than the voting-age population as a whole

As a result - ideological candidates tend to do better in primaries than perhaps they should - in 2008, Republican Ron Paul won at least 10% of the vote in 14 primaries and caucuses

3. Very expensive process

Candidates have to start their campaigns much earlier and therefore they are much longer and more expensive

Due to 'frontloading' there is very little time to raise money once the primaries have started - so they start early

2012 total election cost surpassed $2 billion

4. Process is largely dominated by the media

Ordinary voters rely on the media for information about the candidates - which can be largely biased dependent on which media it is

Powerful right-wing media - 'shock jocks' are radio broadcasters that attract attention using melodramatic exaggeration and offensive humour and the 'Glenn Beck Programme', a former Tea Party founder

Left-wing media includes the Daily Kos and group blogs

Republican Primary Process - 2012 Candidates

1. Mitt Romney

2. Rick Santorum

3. Michele Bachman

4. Ron Paul

5. Newt Gingrich Mitt Romney was an early favourite - he lacked support from the party's conservative wing as he was considered too moderate

National Party Convention The meeting held once every 4 years by each of the major parties to select their presidential and vice-presidential candidates and write a party platform 2012 Republican NPC - Tampa, Florida

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan announced

Received a 1 point convention bounce

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