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

By James W. Davis | Go to book overview

Three other presidents-- Nixon, Ford, and Bush--all used the vice presidency as a stepping stone to the White House. Two unsuccessful nominees--Hubert H. Humphrey and Walter F. Mondale--also capitalized on their vice presidential credentials as evidence of demonstrated leadership.

Most other recent contenders in the out-of-office party have experienced far greater difficulty in differentiating their qualifications and leadership potential from their intraparty rivals'. One of the few successful candidates among the relative unknowns to emerge from the pack in 1976 was former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter. An obscure, one-term southern governor, Carter campaigned successfully in the primaries as an anti-Washington, conservative-minded leader who would reinstill "trust in government."

Most recently, Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, a relative unknown on the national scene in 1992, managed to run the presidential primary gauntlet, portraying himself as a Democratic centrist who would bring change to Washington after the twelve-year Reagan-Bush era. Clinton's leadership message was undoubtedly aided by the fact that several strong contenders-- GovernorMario Cuomo of New York, Senators Al Gore and Lloyd Bentsen, and Congressman Richard Gephardt--all decided not to enter the race because they considered President Bush unbeatable in light of his leadership of the victorious allied coalition in the Persian Gulf War. 35


SUMMARY

In the postreform era, leading contenders in the out-of-office party must be well financed and should concentrate on winning the opening-round primaries and caucuses, for the early victories are essential to building momentum for a candidate and demonstrating to the national media that the candidate is a "winner." If possible, the leading contenders aim for a knockout, especially on Super Tuesday--when several hundred delegates in each party are at stake. In 1988, for example, Vice President Bush's sweep of the Republican primaries on Super Tuesday in early March pushed his delegate totals near the "magic number" that would enable him to claim the GOP nomination. Especially within the Republican Party, the winner-take-all rules, still permitted in approximately half the states, help the GOP front-runner build up his or her delegate totals in a hurry.

On the other side, the Democratic Party rules, with the mandatory proportional representation rule, are less conducive to early capture of the presidential nomination when the party does not occupy the White House. Still, in three cases out of four between 1976 and 1992, the Democratic front-runner had locked up the nomination before the end of the primary season.

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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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