U.S. Presidential Primaries and the Caucus-Convention System: A Sourcebook

By James W. Davis | Go to book overview

visive"--proved to be a serious miscalculation by his strategists. This tactical mistake quickly became obvious when Reagan lost to George Bush in Iowa. Consequently, Reagan quickly reversed himself and announced that he would debate his rivals in the New Hampshire primary.

Fifth, recent shifts in TV and radio talk show programming may have relegated presidential primary debates to a lesser role in future nominating campaigns. Larry King Live, Donahue, Good Morning America, and similar types of talk shows and entertainment programs offer more exciting one-on-one opportunities for presidential candidates to reach huge audiences without most of the risk of facing unanticipated debate questions. Also, the candidate on a talk show is less likely to alienate rival contenders than during the primary debates. H. Ross Perot, the Texas billionaire, demonstrated in 1992 how easy it was to use the TV talk show format to circumvent the regular political process of debates, nominating conventions, and traditional campaigning to become a serious contender for the presidency.

And sixth, presidential primary debates also help leading contenders hone and polish their debating skills for the general election campaign--if they win the nomination. Candidates who have undergone the fire of primary debates are more likely to make formidable opponents in the fall presidential election. Indeed, in the 1992 general election campaign, President Bush's managers publicly conceded that he would be at a considerable disadvantage in debating Democrat Bill Clinton whose forensic skills were highly rated.


FINAL REMARKS

Presidential primary debates can sometimes be a decisive turning point in the nominating race. Indeed, Ronald Reagan's "I paid for this microphone" histrionics in the famous 1980 New Hampshire debate helped carry him to victory in the Granite State and subsequently to the nomination and the White House.


NOTES
1.
James W. Davis, Presidential Primaries: Road to the White House ( New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1967), pp. 58-59.
2.
Charles A. H. Thomson and Frances M. Shattuck, The 1956 Presidential Campaign ( Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1960), pp. 54-56.
3.
Theodore H. White, The Making of the President, 1960 ( New York: Atheneum, 1961), p. 109. Because both Kennedy and Humphrey focused heavily on the merits of Democratic party proposals, the GOP national chairman demanded "equal time," arguing that the so-called "debate" merely helped the Democrats advertise their positions. In his opinion, the joint appearance had "all the sharpness

-155-

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U.S. Presidential Primaries and the Caucus-Convention System: A Sourcebook
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Preface ix
  • Notes xii
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • 1 - Presidential Nominations-- American Style 1
  • Introduction 8
  • 2 - History of Presidential Nominations (1789-1968) 9
  • Notes 18
  • 3 - Party Reform 20
  • Notes 32
  • 4 - Presidential Primaries in the Postreform Era (1972-1996) 34
  • Notes 44
  • 5 - The Caucus-Convention System 45
  • Notes 57
  • 6 - National Convention Delegate Selection Before and After Mcgovern-Fraser Reforms 59
  • Notes 66
  • 7 - Who Are the Delegates? 67
  • Notes 81
  • 8 - Nominating Strategies 83
  • Summary 98
  • Notes 99
  • 9 - Nominating Finance 101
  • Notes 122
  • 10 - Supreme Court Decisions and Presidential Nominations 125
  • Notes 132
  • 11 - Primaries, Caucuses, and the Mass Media 134
  • Notes 144
  • 12 - Primary Debates 146
  • Notes 155
  • 13 - Polls and Primaries 157
  • Notes 170
  • 14 - Voter Participation in Primaries and Caucuses 172
  • Notes 192
  • 15 - Proposed National Primary 195
  • Notes 205
  • 16 - Regional Primaries 206
  • Notes 213
  • 17 - National Preprimary Convention Plan and Other Recent Reform Proposals 215
  • Notes 221
  • 18 - National Nominating Conventions 223
  • Notes 251
  • 19 - Presidential Nominations: The Perot Model 254
  • Notes 261
  • Appendixes 263
  • Glossary 269
  • Selected Bibliography 275
  • Index 283
  • About the Author 295
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