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

By James W. Davis | Go to book overview

Personal characteristics of the candidates also have "an indirect influence, shaping the respondents' perception of the candidates' ideological positions, and views on issues." 50 To be sure, issues, ideology, and expectations may also influence the decisions of voters, but, as John Geer notes, "the dominant criterion of voters in primaries is the personal characteristics of the contenders."51

Candidate success in the early primaries generates momentum for the winner that may persuade voters in other states to support this candidate in subsequent primaries and caucuses, 52 Equally important, opinion polls pinpoint the leading candidates and help prospective voters evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the various contenders.

Strategic Voting. Finally, some voters may support only established candidates to avoid "wasting their vote." 53 This form of strategic voting, however, is vitiated by the fact that a presidential nominating campaign is a two-step process, the final results of which will not be decided until November. In other words, the selection of a party nominee is not an end in itself but a preliminary step in the leadership selection process. 54 The prospective voter has no assurance that his or her favorite will survive the complicated, multi-candidate preliminary stage to become the nominee. Indeed, another contender may have a better chance of winning the nomination, especially if he or she has momentum, so if voters want to maximize their impact on the outcome, they may be tempted to go for the second choice.

No wonder fathoming how voters will finally arrive at a decision on primary day continues to require a crystal ball as well as intensive opinion polling.


NOTES
1.
Committee for the Study of American Electorate, unpublished data, reproduced in Statistical Abstract of the United States ( Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Commerce, 1994), table no. 450, p. 288.
2.
V. O. Key Jr., American State Politics: An Introduction ( New York: A. A. Knopf, 1956).
3.
Austin Ranney, "Turnout and Representation in Presidential Primary Elections," American Political Science Review 66 ( March 1972): 23-24.
4.
Austin Ranney, "Parties in State Politics," in Politics in American States: A Comparative Analysis, ed. Herbert Jacob and Kenneth Vines, 2nd ed. ( Boston: Little, Brown, 1971), table 3, p. 98.
5.
James W. Davis, Presidential Primaries: Road to the White House, 2nd ed. ( Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1980), pp. 138-144.
6.
Ibid., p. 139.
7.
For a view that Austin Ranney has underestimated voter turnout in the 1976 presidential primaries, see Michael G. Hagen, "Voter Turnout in Primary Elections," in The Iowa Caucuses and the Presidential Nominating Process, ed. Peveriil

-192-

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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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