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

By James W. Davis | Go to book overview

Preface

Some years ago, political scientist Austin Ranney observed that "in America the presidential nominating game is played under by far the most elaborate, variegated, and complex set of rules in the world. They include national party rules, state statutes (especially those governing presidential primaries), and a wide variety of rulings by national and state courts." 1 The main purpose of this sourcebook is to help reduce the confusion that surrounds the highly convoluted American presidential nominating process.

To assist the reader in making sense out of this complicated selection process, the sourcebook has been organized around nineteen major topics. Hopefully, they will guide the reader toward a better understanding of this unique nominating process, which permits a degree of popular control and participation not found elsewhere in the free world, except Canada. 2

Over the past quarter century the American nominating process has undergone a major transformation. Within a generation, decision making on presidential nominations has shifted from the tight control of state party leaders to popular-elected delegates pledged to support the winner of the primaries. The chief explanation can be found in the rapid proliferation of presidential primaries to approximately forty states and the compulsory delegate pledges contained in these new laws.

Twenty-five years ago the study of presidential primaries was a neglected area of American politics. Only one book on the subject had been published since Louise Overacker's pioneering study in 1926. The explanation for this academic indifference was simple: Presidential primaries were secondary in the selection of the party nominee.

Until 1972, presidential nominees were almost always the choice of state party leaders and insiders, especially in the caucus-convention states. Only

-ix-

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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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