Reforming the Presidential Nomination Process

Reforming the Presidential Nomination Process

Steven S. Smith
Melanie J. Springer
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 205
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  • Book Info
    Reforming the Presidential Nomination Process
    Book Description:

    The 2008 U.S. presidential campaign has provided a lifetime's worth of surprises. Once again, however, the nomination process highlighted the importance of organization, political prowess, timing, and money. And once again, it raised many hackles. The Democratic contest in particular generated many complaints -for example, it started too early, it was too long, and Super Tuesday was overloaded. This timely book synthesizes new analysis by premier political scientists into a cohesive look at the presidential nomination process -the ways in which it is broken and how it might be fixed.

    The contributors toReforming the Presidential Nomination Processaddress different facets of the selection process, starting with a brief history of how we got to this point. They analyze the importance -and perceived unfairness -of the earliest primaries and discuss what led to record turnouts in 2008. What roles do media coverage and public endorsements play? William Mayer explains the "superdelegate" phenomenon and the controversy surrounding it; James Gibson and Melanie Springer evaluate public perceptions of the current process as well as possible reforms. Larry Sabato (A More Perfect Constitution) calls for a new nomination system, installed via constitutional amendment, while Tom Mann of Brookings opines on calls for reform that arose in 2008 and Daniel Lowenstein examines the process by which reforms may be adopted -or blocked.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-0349-5
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xvi)
  4. 1 Choosing Presidential Candidates
    (pp. 1-22)

    Choosing presidential candidates is the most bewildering process in the American electoral system, if we dare call it a system. Only since the early 1970s, nearly two centuries into the history of the republic, have the two major parties employed rules governing the state delegate selection processes in much detail—and the two parties adopted quite different rules. Since the early 1970s, many, but not all, state legislatures have stepped in to establish by state law the timing of primaries and caucuses, eligibility to vote in primaries, the placement of candidates’ names on ballots, and the process by which delegates...

  5. 2 Rules and the Ideological Character of Primary Electorates
    (pp. 23-43)

    Americans have a peculiar way of selecting candidates for president of the United States. Whereas the powers of the office are laid out by the U.S. Constitution, with its checks and balances and a history of Supreme Court decisions demarcating the duties and powers of the office, the selection of candidates is left to the individual whims of the states and political parties. And because the rules for candidate selection are not cemented in the Constitution, they have evolved and continue to change much more than the rules that govern the operation of most other aspects of American national government....

  6. 3 Voter Participation: Records Galore This Time, but What about Next Time?
    (pp. 44-63)

    The possibility that voter participation might be different in 2008 surfaced in the nation’s first nominating contest, the Iowa caucuses. The old participation record was 220,000 voters, set in 2000. Turnout in 2008 was far higher. More than 350,000 Iowans braved the January cold to express their preference for the next president of the United States. In yet another sign of things to come, the youth vote—ballots cast by those under 30 years of age—was three times greater than it had been in 2004.¹

    In percentage terms, Iowa’s turnout was hardly earthshaking—only one in six of the...

  7. 4 Media, Endorsements, and the 2008 Primaries
    (pp. 64-84)

    Endorsements of candidates were a fixture of the 2008 presidential primary campaign, just as they have been in past primaries. Most research has focused on how newspaper endorsements and statements of support made by prominent political figures affected voting and the outcome of the nominating process. Studies of the effects of newspaper endorsements have produced mixed results. Some have found that newspaper endorsements may influence up to 5 percent of the vote.¹ Others conclude that newspaper endorsements have little² or no effect at all on the vote,³ or only an effect on those less engaged in politics.⁴

    Two recent studies...

  8. 5 Superdelegates: Reforming the Reforms Revisited
    (pp. 85-108)

    Had Andy Warhol been a political scientist studying the presidential nomination process, he might have reformulated his oft-quoted dictum to read: Every delegate selection rule, no matter how arcane, will become world-famous in at least one nomination contest. Every four years, the Democratic and Republican national parties each promulgate a long and detailed set of rules governing the composition and selection of national convention delegates. In general, these rules are carefully studied by a very narrow slice of campaign managers, consultants, political activists, and reporters, while the vast majority of Americans—even those who follow politics rather closely—remain entirely...

  9. 6 Public Opinion and Systems for Nominating Presidential Candidates
    (pp. 109-135)

    Increasingly, political pundits, policymakers, and the media have critiqued the methods used by political parties in the United States to nominate presidential candidates. The complicated selection process is widely regarded as disorderly, chaotic, and irrational. Commentary about the selection system during the 2008 presidential primary season was no exception. Some have claimed that “the presidential primary system is broken.”¹ Specific concerns about the current system center on the short-term and long-term ramifications of front-loading, questioning whether small and unrepresentative states, like Iowa and New Hampshire, should have such a disproportionately influential role in the process, and the seemingly important differences...

  10. 7 Picking Presidential Nominees: Time for a New Regime
    (pp. 136-150)

    Even a cursory glance at the presidential primary process reveals fundamental flaws that undermine the democratic process, disfranchise some voters and cede too much power to others, increase the cost of elections, and extend the duration of campaigns. One of the basic difficulties is that the Constitution gives no guidance and sets no rules for the nominating process. Of course, the Founders had no need to design a more precise presidential nominating system since, in 1787, they believed neither in political parties nor in mass democracy. But we do, and the Constitution has not grown with our vision of an...

  11. 8 Is This Any Way to Pick a President? Lessons from 2008
    (pp. 151-172)

    Shortly after Senator Barack Obama became the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, four months after Senator John McCain effectively wrapped up the contest to be the Republican Party’s standard-bearer, theNew York Timesoffered up the conventional wisdom about the process that produced these outcomes: “It takes nothing away from the achievements of Barack Obama and John McCain to take note that the system for choosing the parties’ nominees is seriously flawed.” Stressing the principle of “one person, one vote,” theTimeseditorial argued that “all voters should have an equal opportunity, regardless of who they are or where they live,...

  12. 9 Presidential Nomination Reform: Legal Restraints and Procedural Possibilities
    (pp. 173-196)

    Discontent with the presidential nominating process has been a constant in American politics for at least the past five decades. From the 1960s through the 1980s, the leading causes of controversy included the limited ability of ordinary voters to directly influence the selection of major party candidates and the demographic representativeness of delegates to the national nominating conventions. Beginning in the 1980s and continuing through the period leading up to the 2008 nominations, the greatest cause for concern has been the timing of “nominating events”—a term I shall use to refer collectively to presidential primaries and caucuses.

    This chapter...

  13. Contributors
    (pp. 197-198)
  14. Index
    (pp. 199-205)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 206-206)