Over the years, proposals for a national presidential primary have surfaced periodically. Under the proposed national primary the present "mixed" system of presidential primaries and caucus-delegate contests for seats at the national convention would be replaced by a single national presidential primary in each party. This election would be held across the country in all fifty states on the same day, with voters expressing their individual preferences for the party nominee in the November election. All votes would count equally in the national primary. Under a national primary, there would be no convention delegates or intermediaries between the voters and the candidates. The first-round caucuses in Iowa and the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary would vanish.
If American voters were asked to approve a national presidential primary to select presidential candidates, they would most likely endorse the proposal. Gallup polls since the 1950s have showed consistently that approximately two thirds of the respondents favor a national primary over the present system (see Table 15.1). Over the years the Gallup poll has asked respondents the following question: "It has been suggested that presidential candidates be chosen by the voters in a nationwide primary election instead of by political party conventions as at present. Would you favor this?"
Federal legislation to establish a national presidential primary dates back to the Progressive era. The first bill to federalize the legal machinery for nominating presidential candidates was introduced in 1911 by Congressman Richard P. Hobson (D-AL). 1 Under his plan, presidential candidates