Nineteenth-century New York political boss William Marcy Tweed once observed, "I don't care who does the electing just so I can do the nominating." This sage observation underscores the basic political fact of life that nominations are the most decisive stage in the entire process of presidential selection. Put simply, the presidential nominating process narrows the alternatives from a theoretical potential candidate pool of the millions who meet the constitutional requirements for the office to only two candidates, one Republican and one Democrat, with a realistic chance of winning the White House.
Donald R. Matthews has noted, "The nominating decision is one of the major determinants of who wins in November."1 Indeed, because electoral decisions usually take on greater importance in nominating decision making than calculations on probable performance in the White House, the presidential nominating process has as much effect, if not more, than the presidential election itself in shaping the future direction of the country. The choice of Franklin Delano Roosevelt over Alfred E. Smith in the 1932 Democratic race, the Republicans' preference for Dwight D. Eisenhower over Senator Robert A. Taft in the 1952 GOP (Grand Old Party) contest, the selection of John F. Kennedy over fellow Democrats Adlai E. Stevenson and Lyndon Johnson in 1960, and the Republican's choice of Ronald Reagan over George Bush, Bob Dole, and Howard Baker in the 1980 Republican race are all cases in point.
Sometimes getting nominated may be a bigger hurdle toward winning