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

By James W. Davis | Go to book overview

selection of the party nominee, pick the vice presidential candidate, and hammer out the platform. The original Packwood regional primary bill (later co-sponsored by Senators Mark Hatfield [R-OR], and Ted Stevens [R-AK]) leaves each state free to decide for itself on whether or not to hold a presidential primary. Thus, the states retain much wider latitude in the management and selection of their national convention delegates. And the viability of the national convention would be less seriously threatened than under the national direct primary reform.

Although public opinion polls have showed approval for regional presidential primaries, a final vote on such proposed legislation has never been taken in the halls of Congress. Nor has there been a public outcry for primary reform, such as the recent demand for term limits for members of Congress.

However, the national primary movement could be pushed along by a twin drive for a constitutional amendment to abolish the electoral college and substitute direct election of the president without regard to state lines. As explained by Austin Ranney, "Most of the arguments against the Electoral College and in favor of direct national elections can also be made against the national party convention and in favor of a direct national primary."12 Both the electoral college and the national convention, the critics insist, are artificial devices thrust between the sovereign voters and their choosing of a president. Both of these time-honored institutions make possible the selection of a president by a minority of voters, whereas direct election of the president and a national presidential primary will always reflect the popular will, the equally weighted votes of individual citizens.

Significantly, all recent primary bills introduced since 1977 rely on acts of Congress, not constitutional amendments, to federalize the presidential nominating system. Whether Congress has the power to overhaul the presidential nominating system without use of a constitutional amendment has never been fully established. But it is significant, as Ranney has pointed out, that none of the challengers to the constitutionality of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1974 argued that Congress lacked the power to regulate presidential primaries. 13


NOTES
1.
For a discussion of the Packwood plan, see U.S. Congress, Senate, Congressional Record, 92nd Cong., 2nd sess., 1972, 118, pt. 12, pp. 15231-15242.
2.
"Presidential Primaries: Proposals for a New System," Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report 30, ( July 10, 1972): 1653-1654.
4.
See Openness, Participation, and Party Building: Reforms for a Stronger Democratic Party, Report of the Commission on Presidential Nomination and Party Structure ( Winograd Commission) ( Washington, D.C.: Democratic National Committee, 1978), pp. 33-35.

-213-

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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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