2004 Democratic Primaries

I understand that the primaries are when a presidential candidate is chosen. Other than that, I don’t see why there is so much hoopla around these events. In fact, I don’t really know what they are. What are presidential primaries and why are they important?

Thank you PBS

The primary process was created by the political parties (i.e., the Democratic & Republican Parties). The intention was to generate more voter participation and grassroots mobilization for a party’s presidential nominee. If a Republican is the incumbent president (as it is for this election year), then the Democratic Party gets the media spotlight and the Republican primaries would only be held as a formality. Participation and mobilization are achieved by making the nomination process begin at the local level.

The Process
Each state holds its own primary or caucuses (small and informal town hall meetings). Primaries and caucuses both have the end goal of sending state delegates to the party’s National Convention. However, a caucus elects its state delegates through a series of conferences (regional, county, district and state) after the local caucus. A single caucus session could last two hours or more, and the whole process to elect the state delegates lasts several months. A primary would only take a person several minutes during the primary election day.

The total number of delegates per state is determined by its population. Republican primaries have a winner-take-all system. The Democratic primaries use a proportional system. In this year’s Iowa primary, for instance, Kerry would receive 38% of the state’s total delegation, Edwards 32% and Dean 18%.

It is at the National Convention where a state’s delegates vote directly for a candidate. The candidate with the most delegate votes at the National Convention will become the party’s presidential nominee.

The Early Primaries are Important
Victory in early primaries would prove the strength of a candidate. Supporters of the victor would feel more confident with their choice and campaign donors would be more willing to give their money. Candidates who fail to gain support during early primaries would typically drop out of the race rather than waste time, money and political capital.

Early primaries benefit the state as well as making them important for candidates. Senators and House Reps would fund a lot of pork bellies for states with early primaries in hopes of getting preferential treatment during their presidential bid. As a result, Iowa law states that its caucus must be 8 days before New Hampshire’s primary. And, New Hampshire’s constitution mandates the state’s primary to be one week before any other state’s primary.

Super Tuesdays
Other states wanted preferential treatment as well. So, a group of states would band together and hold their primary elections at the same time. This year, February 3rd will be the first Super Tuesday. At that time, a grand total of 290 delegates for the Democratic Party is up for grabs — Arizona (64), Delaware (23), Missouri (42), New Mexico (37), Oklahoma (47), South Carolina (55), and North Dakota (22). March 2nd is the second Super Tuesday (1,529 delegates total), with 440 from California, 284 from New York, and 121 from Massachusetts.

Super Tuesdays make or break a campaign.

Now, I understand why the Iowa caucuses were so important. It was important enough for Gephardt to stake it as his last stand. He must’ve been thinking “If I’m going to go down, I’m going to take Dean with me.” And, down Dean did go. Gov. Dean finished 3rd in that horse race with first prize to Kerry and the silver to Edwards.

I was perturbed by Dean’s speech after the Iowa caucus results. Bombastic and defiant, he screamed how his campaign is going to every major state and head to Washington to take back the White House. And he screamed – like a barbarian. What was he on? His behavior surprised even his close aides.

General Wesley Clark will be at the New Hampshire primaries. He skipped out in Iowa, so the battleground will be a bit different for Dean with him in the picture. It seems he toned down his speech a bit and refrained from attacking his fellow Democrats. I’m glad, since his negative campaigned seemed to hurt him in Iowa.

As far as funds go, Dean is doing better than his peers. I’m crossing my fingers for him for the Super Tuesday on February 3rd.

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