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Civic Education Workshop. Day 2: Presidential Elections. Structure of Presidential Elections. National Law sets days for Federal elections, minimum qualifications, basic voter rights, and regulations for campaign finance of federal elections

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Civic Education Workshop

Day 2:

Presidential Elections


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Structure of Presidential Elections

  • National Law sets days for Federal elections, minimum qualifications, basic voter rights, and regulations for campaign finance of federal elections

  • State Law controls ballot form, access to the ballot, registration, polling times, absentee ballots, division of Electoral Votes

  • The “Rules of the Game” matter!


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Running for President

  • Getting Nominated

    • Delegates to national conventions select candidates

    • Previously, delegates were selected before primaries and free to support whomever they wanted

    • Now, most delegates are bound to particular candidates based on primaries


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Presidential Primaries

  • Primaries are a series of state-wide elections

  • Rules governing primaries are set by state and national political parties

    • Timing

    • Allocation of delegates

    • Open or closed primaries

    • Conventions


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Presidential Primaries (cont.)

  • Early primary success is critical

    • Creates a bandwagon effect

    • Attracts media coverage and contributions

  • “Success” defined by expectations

    • LBJ; Clinton

  • Importance of early primaries has caused pressure to ‘front-load’

  • Front-loading makes early money and name recognition more important


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Presidential Primaries (cont.)

  • Primaries differ from general elections because:

    • They often begin with more than 2 viable candidates

    • Primary and general electorates are not the same

    • Party labels cannot serve as information cues


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The General Election

  • Early Nominees have the advantage

  • The content of the campaigns change because the opponents change

  • The battle is over defining the nature of the choice (“It’s the Economy Stupid”)


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General Election (cont.)

  • The Electoral College means that presidential elections are really a set of 50 (plus D.C.) simultaneous state-wide elections

  • The Electoral College over-represents small states

  • Candidates compete in “swing” states


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Elements of the General Election

  • Polls

    • Learn about voters

    • Test messages

  • Negative campaigns

    • Negative messages stick with voters

    • Must be credible

    • Remember, the goal is not to make voters feel good – the goal is to win.

  • The Debates

    • What is said is important

    • What is said about them is also important


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