Understanding Election 2008
What the primaries are all about and where they are taking us
By: Catherine Wright
Okay everyone! Quiz time!!! Do you know your primaries from your caucasus? Your delegates from your superdelegates? Fear not! BettyConfidential.com is here to give you the cheat sheet on all the speech making, banner waving, and bumper sticker hoopla.
What’s the point of primaries? They give candidates the chance to develop their platforms and campaign directly to voters in individual states. More importantly, the primaries act as a mechanism for the two main parties to narrow down the pool of potential nominees to one final representative. Hence Romney, Edwards, and Giuliani going down like ducks at a carnival booth in the last two weeks. All the candidates try to compete for representation from state delegates. The more delegates a candidate has in his or her corner, the more likely they will get the party nod and have a real shot at the White House. The primaries take place in each state, usually starting off with the smaller states, giving nominees of each party the opportunity to take a more personal approach to the voters at the front end of the campaign trail. “So what was the deal with Iowa?” you might ask. They’re weird. Just kidding! Iowa goes with a caucus instead of a primary. In a primary, voters actually cast ballots and it’s fairly straight forward. A caucus on the other hand, is more like a town hall meeting among members of political parties saying who they give their support to.
Where does it all lead? To the national conventions, the place to shine in the world of politics. The 2008 Democratic primaries, caucuses, and conventions will culminate with the Democratic National Convention (DNC) August 25 to August 28,2008 in Denver, Colorado. Delegates to attend each party’s national convention are chosen in the primaries and caucuses of each state. State delegates are chosen by the voters of their respective state and are chosen based on which presidential candidate they support. Some states have laws that require delegates vote for the candidate for which they originally showed support. However, “superdelegates” are not legally bound to support a certain candidate for nomination, but many of them publicly endorse candidates. To party elites, this ability to follow your own star is better than kryptonite and merits the appropriate prefix. These superdelegates only comprise one-fifth of the total number of delegates at the 2008 Democratic National Convention (DNC). However, they are receiving greater attention in this election cycle due to a tight race between the two Democratic leading contenders, Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama.
The Republican National Convention will be held in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota from September 1 until September 4, 2008. Here the delegates who were chosen by the party will select a candidate by majority rule. Unlike the Democratic Party, Republican members of Congress (both the Senate and the House) and state governors are not automatically delegates for the party’s national convention, but act like Democratic “superdelegates”. Their endorsements can influence caucus and primary voters. Each state has two members of the Republican National Committee.
February 5th was referred to as “Super Tuesday” because it is the day that most states hold their primary elections to select delegates to national conventions. In the Spring of 2007, 24 states moved their primary election date to February 5 making 2008 “Super Tuesday” the largest to date. It revealed that there is overwhelming Republican support for Senator John McCain (Arizona). Thus he will likely be the 2008 Republican presidential candidate. However, running mate Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee says there is still hope and refuses to back down despite President Bush’s call for GOP unity. There are two other Republican candidates still in the race, Representative Ron Paul (TX) and former US Ambassador Alan Keyes (Maryland), but neither secured states.
For the Democrats on Super Tuesday, Hillary Clinton took 8 states and won 584 delegates while Barack Obama took 13 states and won 563 delegates. Though the political pundits predicted that this year’s larger-than-ever “Super Tuesday” would more clearly present each party’s front-runner, this was not the case for the Democrats.
Therefore, Democratic primary campaigns will continue and if there is still no majority obtained by the delegates at the DNC by August 25th, the nomination will be determined by a “brokered convention” (through agreement and discussion which may involve multiple delegate ballots). The upcoming state primaries most likely to reveal a Democratic front-runner and include Virginia, Wisconsin, Ohio, Texas, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina.
If your state primary has yet to take place, make sure you get out and vote! Stay tuned for more updates on the campaign trail.