Communication Patterns in
Presidential Primaries, 1912-2000:
Knowing the Rules of the Game
This book has examined the distinctive patterns of communication in presidential primaries, focusing especially on 1912, the first year of numerous primaries, and then on primaries at 20-year intervals after 1912: 1932, 1952, 1972, and 1992. In Part I of Chapter 7, the author will report on the consistent patterns of communication found in primaries from their earliest days through 1992. Part II turns to communication in the 1996 primaries and the future, examining (1) the extent to which the communication patterns or rules used by candidates and the media in the past illuminate the 1996 primaries and those of 2000, and (2) proposals for change.
The conventional wisdom about the presidential primaries contains the following premises: (1) Before 1972, the primaries were not routinely important, as the political parties controlled the nomination process and selected the nominee at the national nominating conventions. As columnist Jules Witcover said, it was "rare when [the primaries] were critical" ( 1997); Asher ( 1992) mentions the primaries of 1960 and 1964 as two such rare occasions. "Importance" in this reasoning has meant attaining the requisite number of delegates to achieve nomination at the convention; (2) Primaries first became important in 1972, when the rules reforms of the McGovern-Fraser Commission adopted by the Democratic Party shifted power away from the party leaders and to the candidates and voters ( Bartels, 1988)1; (3) Media coverage of the primaries changed with the advent of television, leading to a new focus on the