Nominating Presidents: An Evaluation of Voters and Primaries

By John G. Geer | Go to book overview

sion-makers. Given that voters in primaries have selected only a handful of candidates, additional data are necessary to refine and modify the generalizations about these participants. In addition, political scientists will develop alternative standards to judge the qualifications of voters, which should shed further light on their merits as decision-makers. But perhaps most important, this debate will continue because the nominating process is a coveted source of power in the American political arena. And because of its importance, one can expect this struggle to continue over who, as Boss Tweed once said, gets to "do the nominating."


NOTES
1.
Ceasar ( 1982) makes a similar three-prong classification concerning possible courses for reform, labeling them 1. "more direct democracy," 2. "rationalizing the status quo," and 3. "increasing the role of representative decision- making."
2.
Actually, "peer review" occurs under the present arrangement; it just takes place in the early stages of the selection process. A candidate generally becomes a serious contender--one able to command money and media attention--when the party leadership considers this individual a good choice. Mondale's status as the front-runner in 1984 is an example of just such an effect. Mondale was viewed as the likely nominee not just because voters and the news media were actively supporting his selection after the 1980 election, but rather, Mondale's status as a front-runner was, in part, because political elites felt he was the best choice available, especially once Senator Kennedy withdrew from the race. Their assessment led them to endorse his candidacy and help raise funds for his prenomination campaign. Michael Hawthorne ( 1984) provides evidence of "peer review" in the current system, showing that prenomination campaigns establish "links with local politicians and activists, though not necessarily through the party, but instead through candidate organization and personal networks. This is not the role which individuals like Schattschneider would prefer the party to play, but it does establish a link between nomination campaigns and other elected and party officials. It is informal, and may or may not withstand the election and survive after taking office. But to suggest that presidential nomination campaigns operate without linkages to others in the political system may be vastly overstating the situation" (pp. 18-19).
3.
There are, of course, measures of presidential greatness, which can provide insights into the quality of candidates chosen by a nominating system. Kenney and Rice ( 1988) present one set of rankings from the Chicago Tribune. According to those data, the average ranking of presidents selected under the "mixed" system was 17. The scale runs from I to 37, suggesting that a 17 is about average. This number seems reasonable. While FDR, Truman, and Wilson are generally viewed as very good presidents, the mixed system also selected Harding, Coolidge, and Nixon. Thus it seems that the previous system had a checkered record of presidential selection, as suggested above. It is hard to compare these numbers to those in the current system. Carter ranked 26th, a poor showing. Reagan, on the other hand, is likely to be placed

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