Nominating Presidents: An Evaluation of Voters and Primaries

By John G. Geer | Go to book overview

1
Introduction

I don't care who does the electing, so long as I can do the nominating.

William "Boss" Tweed

This statement by the one-time leader of Tammany Hall underscores the importance of controlling the nominating process. While scholars and political pundits obviously care about "who does the electing," many agree with Tweed that nominating candidates is the more critical stage in the selection process. As William Keech and Donald Matthews ( 1976) succinctly observe, "presidential nominations are more important than presidential elections". (p. 1). Perhaps because the stakes are high, there have been frequent struggles during the course of American history over who gets to "do the nominating." Nearly one hundred and seventy years ago proponents of the congressional caucus were battling with those who advocated a system that gave state and local party leaders a greater voice in selecting presidential nominees. State and local party leaders won that battle, establishing a series of caucuses and a national party convention. Since the turn of the century, the struggle has been over whether party leaders or the rank and file should choose contenders for the Oval Office. Party leaders have had the upper hand during most of this time. But beginning in 1972 and continuing today, the rank and file have become the central decision-makers in the process. It is this latest change that is the subject of this book.

The most recent struggle, which has been going on for over 75 years, has focused largely on the merits of the direct primary. This delegate-

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Nominating Presidents: An Evaluation of Voters and Primaries
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Political Science ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figures and Tables ix
  • Foreword xi
  • Preface xv
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • Notes 11
  • 2 - The Representativeness of Voters in Presidential Primaries 15
  • 3 - Participation in Presidential Primaries 31
  • 4 - Information and Voters Presidential Primaries 45
  • 4 Information and Voters Presidential Primaries 57
  • 5 - Voting in Presidential Primaries 63
  • Notes 84
  • 6 - The Media and Voters in Presidential Primaries 89
  • Notes 103
  • 7 - A Few Rules of the Game 105
  • Conclusion 120
  • Notes 120
  • 8 - A Proposal for Reform 125
  • Notes 136
  • Appendix I Definition of Variables Used in Explaining Turnout 139
  • Appendix II Description of Survey Questions 141
  • Appendix III The Coding of the Open-Ended Comments 145
  • Bibliography 147
  • Index 155
  • About the Author 161
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