2004 DNC Delegate Allocation
the relatively focused retail campaigns of Iowa and New Hampshire, the
surviving candidates enter a dizzying array of primaries. Frontloading
compressed the primary calendar to the extent that in 2000, 42% of Republican
delegates and 39% of Democratic delegates were selected by March 7.
Candidates must decide where to concentrate their efforts and resources
as they jump around the country trying to hit key media markets and win
enough delegates to gain their party nominations.
In 2004, Primary Calendar is Again Frontloaded
Democrats had such a crowded field early on that it was possible the process could have continued to the convention in Boston. However, the crush of primaries in February 2004 was designed to produce a Democratic nominee early on, thus avoiding a bruising, drawn-out battle for the nomination. It succeeded in that respect. However the relatively early determination of the Democratic nomination and the uncontested Republican primary campaign led to low voter participation in later states.
How the Primary System Works
Delegates to the national conventions are selected through state primaries and caucuses. Each state party has its own set of rules for selecting delegates; these plans are subject to approval of the Republican National Committee or the Democratic National Committee, respectively, and must also be in accord with state election law. (In most states, the legislature actually sets the date and general format for the primary or caucuses). A few states like Iowa still use a multi-tiered caucus system, but most now have primaries.
Caucuses are a multi-stage process that typically begins at the precinct level and proceeds through a series of steps to a state convention. Because the caucus system requires a citizen to take the time to go to a meeting and sit through some speeches, there is generally a very low participation rate. On the plus side, caucuses entail a deeper level of participation and involvement than merely going to the polling place to cast a ballot. Caucuses can be an inspiring example of democracy at work.
The specifics of primaries vary from state to state. In a closed primary, only party members can vote in the primary. In an open primary, the voter need not be registered as a member of a particular party to vote in that party's primary. A blanket primary is an extreme case of an open primary where the voter faces a ballot which has the names of all the candidates running for the office irrespective of party.
Generally, delegates are awarded in each congressional district, and there are also at-large delegates allotted according to statewide performance. On the Republican side, some states use a winner-take-all system, where the primary winner gets all the state's delegates. (Democratic rules "exclude the use of the unit rule at any level.") Finally, in addition to the pledged delegates up for grabs in the primary, Democrats have a category of unpledged delegates, comprising elected officials and party leaders.
The overall number of delegates
and alternates each state will send to the conventions is set by the national
party committees using allocation formulas that
reflect state populations, but also take into account party strength and
other factors. As an example, California, with a population of about
34 million, will send 440 delegates to the 2004 Democratic National Convention
in Boston out of a total of 4,320 delegate votes (10.2%), while New Hampshire,
with a population of 1.3 million, will send 27 delegates (0.6%) to the
Democratic Convention. California's 440 delegates will include 370
pledged delegates and 70 unpledged delgates; 61 alternates will bring the
total delegation to 501.
The Calm after the Storm
After a candidate has gained enough delegates to win the party nomination it may be several months until the convention. During this period between the end of the primaries and the conventions, the presumptive nominees bolster their campaign organizations and place key people in the national party committees to prepare for the general election. Also, conventional wisdom has it that the presumptive nominees must move back to the center after playing to more committed or extreme elements of their respective parties to win in the primaries. How the candidate uses this time can have an important effect on his or her success in the fall.
For example, in 1992 Bill Clinton used the month of June to regroup following a tough passage through the primaries. In 1996 Bob Dole had essentially won the nomination by mid-March, but he faced the period from April to the convention with virtually no funds. In June, Dole gained much attention when he surprised everyone by resigning his Senate seat.
Again in 2000 the post-primary period proved important. Gov. George W. Bush effectively secured the Republican nomination on March 7, 2000; during late March and April he introduced a reading initiative, a plan to clean up brownfields, a "New Prosperity Initiative" to help people move from poverty to the middle class and a health care plan. More such proposals followed in the months leading up to the convention. For Vice President Gore, however, there were some bumps. He moved his campaign headquarters to a third location and brought on a new campaign chairman, while weathering concerns about his polling numbers. In June Gore launched a "Progress and Prosperity" tour.
In 2004 the calendar again led to early selection of the Democratic nominee. Sen. John Edwards, the last major challenger to Sen. John Kerry, withdrew from the race on March 3. In the months leading up to the convention Kerry engaged in record-breaking fundraising efforts.
Vice Presidential Picks
Democratic Vice Presidential
Republican Vice Presidential
Third Party Nominating Processes
William G. Mayer and Andrew E. Busch. December 2003. THE FRONT-LOADING PROBLEM IN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATIONS. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.
In July 2002 the non-profit, nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute launched a Blue Ribbon Task Force on Financing Presidential Nominations to examine some of the system's problems. The Task Force released its report Participation, Competition, Engagement: Reviving And Improving Public Funding For Presidential Nomination Politics on September 22, 2003.
In 2000 the two parties'
differed somewhat. Democratic rules set out a period between the
Tuesday in March and the second Tuesday in June, and had a special
provision for the Iowa precinct caucuses and the New Hampshire primary
to go earlier. [Rule 10A, Delegate Selection Rules for the 2000 Democratic
National Convention]. Republican rules for 2000 were more flexible,
requiring that the process of selecting delegates occur between the first
Monday of February and the third Tuesday of June [Rule No. 32(b)(11)(i)].
This created a very different pacing in the early part of the Democratic
and Republican races. 2000
Copyright © 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action.