News

US Presidential Nominating Process Complicated, Lengthy

Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are locked in a tight battle for their party's presidential nomination, a struggle that could go on for weeks or even months.  Republican John McCain, meanwhile, is the clear frontrunner for his party's nomination.  The process for choosing the party presidential nominees is lengthy, complicated and confusing.  VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a look at the basics of the process from Washington.

The objective is the same in both parties - win enough delegates to become the party nominee for president at the national conventions later this year.

To do that, candidates compete state by state for delegates who will support them at the national conventions, where the parties make the final decision on who will be their presidential candidates. 

To win delegates, the candidates compete in state primaries and caucuses where voters express their preferences.  Candidates who win the primaries and caucuses are awarded delegates, though how that is done varies between the two major political parties.

It is the individual states and political parties that decide what kind of delegate selection process they want in a given state.

Stuart Rothenberg publishes a political newsletter in Washington and was a guest on VOA's Talk To America webchat. 

"The parties are running these systems, or trying to run these nominating systems as they so choose," he noted.  "This is not the United States government adopting a system and imposing it on the parties.  And so again, it tends to be chaotic."

That is why New Hampshire and other states favor the use of a party primary, where voters go to their local polling places and vote, while other states like Iowa prefer party caucuses.  Caucuses require voters to attend local meetings and express their preferences for president.

Historically, the idea of voters choosing the party presidential nominees is relatively new, beginning in the late 1960s.  Before that, state and local elected officials and party bosses around the country effectively controlled the presidential nomination process and chose the party nominees.

The classic description is that for many years, the presidential candidates were chosen in smoke-filled rooms by party bosses and political insiders.

That all began to change in the Democratic Party in the late 1960s and early 1970s when reformers demanded a greater role in the presidential nominating process.

"Beginning in the 1960s, the Democratic Party went through a process of reform, and those reforms moved away from a process that was dominated by insiders and dominated by inside politics to the emergence of a process where voters determined the outcome," said Tad Devine, a longtime Democratic political strategist.

In addition to switching to a system of choosing party nominees by primaries and caucuses, the Democrats also instituted the requirement that delegates would be allocated on a proportional basis.

That means both the winner and loser in close races would get a portion of the delegates at stake.

"To see that there would not only be more open elections, primaries or caucuses, in which the rank and file would have a real voice, but also that the results would not be hinging simply on narrow victories," said Bruce Miroff, who teaches politics at the State University of New York at Albany.  "And so proportional representation in the Democratic Party really starts in the 1972 convention rules."

Republicans also select their presidential nominees through a series of primaries and caucuses.  But most of the Republican contests are winner-take-all votes in which the winner of a given primary or caucus is awarded all the delegates at stake.

About 20 percent of the Democratic delegates are referred to as superdelegates, convention delegates who are not elected through the primaries and caucuses.

Superdelegates are made up of elected officials like governors, senators, members of Congress or local elected officials, as well as high-ranking party officials.

"Those are positions held open for party leaders and elected officials of that party," explained Stephen Wayne, a professor of government at Georgetown University in Washington.  "Unlike the regular delegates who are elected by the people and pledged to support a certain candidate, the superdelegates are unpledged."

Some superdelegates do commit to a candidate in advance.  Some do it privately, others announce it publicly.

Republicans have a similar group of what they call unpledged delegates who are not required to indicate a candidate preference before the party convention.

In this year's extremely close Democratic race, the superdelegates could wind up playing a very important role. 

Professor Miroff says that was the intention of party leaders when they created the concept of superdelegates in the 1970s.

"For the first time since the system was created, superdelegates play the role they were supposed to play as party leaders who worry about the success of the party, rather than individuals committed to particular ideology or a particular candidate," he said.

Clinton and Obama are very close in the delegate count.  Most news organizations estimate each candidate has between 800 and 900 delegates.  A total of 2,025 delegates are necessary to secure the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.

Estimates can vary because of the complicated formula of allocating Democratic delegates that considers the candidate's statewide performance in a given primary or caucus, as well as the candidate's performance in each of that state's individual congressional districts.  Reporting complete vote totals from numerous districts can take time.

On the Republican side, it takes 1,191 delegates to win the nomination.  Based on frontrunner John McCain's strong showing in the Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses, most news organizations project McCain is at least halfway toward his goal of winning the nomination.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs