Beginning of the Campaign

Presidential campaigns begin by candidates announcing plans to run for office.  During a presidential election year, candidates campaign to win delegates before the party conventions. 


Delegates are representatives who pledge to support the candidate’s nomination at the national party convention.


A caucus is a political gathering in which local party members meet together nominate a candidate.

Example:  Iowa is traditionally the first caucus of the presidential campaign season.


A primary is like a general election.  Voters go to the polls to choose a nominee.  Primary elections are the main way for voters to choose a nominee.  The candidate who wins a primary wins the support of most or all of the delegates.

Example:  New Hampshire is traditionally the first primary of the presidential campaign season.


State conventions of the major political parties choose delegates for the national convention.  Andrew Jackson initiated the reform of the state convention.


The National Conventions

The Republican and Democratic parties each hold their own conventions after all the primaries and caucuses.  The purpose of each convention is to unify party members behind their platforms and nominees.  The conventions of the two major parties are usually held during the summer and in different cities from one another.


After many speeches, debates, and an adoption of a platform by the party delegates, a roll call for each state is held to confirm the selection of the party nominee.  Once confirmed, the party nominee makes an acceptance speech.  The nominee becomes the only candidate representing the party in the general election.

Example:  Ronald Reagan became the Republican Party’s presidential candidate at the 1980 Republican National Convention.


Example:  John F. Kennedy became the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate at the 1960 Democratic National Convention.


Third Party Candidates (Minor Party Candidates)


During the 2000 election, 14 candidates from minor parties sought the presidency.  Minor parties do not fare well in presidential elections.  Though third party candidates never win presidential elections, they can be “spoilers”, taking votes away from a candidate of a major party.

Example:  During the Election of 1912, Theodore Roosevelt formed the Progressive Party and received more votes than incumbent President Howard Taft.