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.