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Flashcards in Elections Deck (28)
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Stages of a presidential election

Invisible primary

Primaries and caucuses

Choosing vice presidential candidate

National party convention

General election campaign

Election Day


Requirements for a presidential candidate

(Constitutional requirements in brackets)

(Natural-born American citizen)

(At least 35 years old)

Political experience - 19/22 candidates in 2016 has been either a senator or a state governor

Major party endorsement 

Personal characteristics

Ability to fundraise - Hillary - $700 million

Strong oratory + media capability


Relevant policies 


The invisible primary

Increasing name recognition

Fundraising- (2016 - Ben Carson raised $58 million, but did not win a single primary)

Intra-party TV debates - (2011 - Rick Perry)

Front-runners folding - (Howard Dean 2004 / Rudy Guiliani and Clinton 2008)


Function of primaries and caucuses

Candidates nominated to represent the parties

Delegates chosen to attend national party conventions


Types of primary

Closed primary - only registered party members can vote

Open primary - anyone can vote


Factors affecting turnout in primaries


Type of primary

How competitive the nomination race is (2008 vs 2012)

Whether the nomination has been decided or not - 42 states decided before April in 2008, only 11 in 1980


2016 North Carolina Republican primary

> 1/2 of voters had a college degree

1/3 of voters earned more than $100,000 a year

3/4 of voters 45 or older

Only 6% aged 24 or younger

37% described themselves as being 'very conservative'


Strengths of nomination process

Almost anyone can put themselves forward as a candidate

Increased choice for the electorate

A gruelling race - (eg. Paul Tsongas seen to have a lighter schedule than his rivals (cancer) - questions over his physical resilience)


Weaknesses of nomination process

Voter apathy (turnout between 17-20%)

Voters unrepresentative of the voting population

Process is too long

Process is too expensive

Process is too dominated by the media - TV debates + newspaper coverage

Role of super-delegates 


Strategies for choosing vice presidential candidates

Balanced ticket - (young Obama choosing old Biden)

Potential in government - (Dick Cheney)

Party unity - (Reagan choosing George H.W. Bush)


Functions of the national party conventions

Choosing the party's presidential and vice presidential candidate

Deciding the party platform

Promoting party unity

Enthusing voters, both fervent and undecided


Soft money

Money donated to political parties instead of to candidates in order to avoid campaign finance limitations


Campaign finance legislation and judicial rulings

Federal Election Campaign Act 1974 (motivated by Watergate) - Limited contributions that individuals, unions and corporations could give, reducing candidates' reliance on a few, very wealthy donors

Weakened by: Buckley v Valeo 1976 - Supreme Court ruled that limitations on what individuals could spend infringed First Amendment rights, and were therefore unconstitutional


Matching funds

Federal money administered by the Federal Election Commission, equal to that which the candidate fundraised, up to a set limit.

Obama 2008 - Matthew Barzun


Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (2002)

Banned parties from raising or spending soft money

McCain - Feingold



Political committees that raise limited amounts of money and spends these contributions on elections.


Which Supreme Court decision empowered PACs?

Citizens United v FEC (2010)

Granted corporate and labour organisations the same rights of political free speech as individuals, thereby giving such groups the right of unlimited political expenditure.


Super PACs

A political committee that makes independent expenditures, but does not make contributions to candidates.


Fundraising in the 2016 Election


71% individual funded (3/4 from big donors)

28% PAC / Super PAC funded


42% individual funded (2/3 from small donors)

35% PAC / Super PAC funded

23% self funded


What is campaign money spent on?

Organisation - 489 v 178 field offices

Media - Trump relied more on free media coverage as he raised less money than Clinton

$4.4 billion spent in the 2016 election

Campaigning - Polling


Strengths of the Electoral College

Preserves the voice of the small-population states

Winning candidate likely to win majority of support from the electorate - 2/3 of the time since 1864


 Weaknesses of the Electoral College

Over-represents small states - (California 1 per 713k vs Wyoming 195k)

Winner-take-all system distorts the result - (1996- 49% of popular vote = 70% of electoral college votes for Clinton)

Unfair on third parties - concentrated support requrires (eg. Ross Perot won 18.9% of the vote in 1992)

Rogue electors - Occured in 7/13 elections since 1968 (167 in total) - very few with 30k in total

No requirement to win the popular vote - 91% of the time though

National Popular Vote Interstate Compact - 14 states, 189/270 electoral college votes

Wasted votes- possible to win with only 22% of the vote

Election focused on purple states (2012 - only 12 states visitied by major candidates) - affects policy - Florida/age/medicare


Trends in congressional elections

Strong support for incumbents - 97.8% in the House in 2000

Limited coattails effect - 16/21 winning Republican senators in 2016 fared better than Trump

Decline of split-ticket voting

Fewer competitive districts - 31 in 2016 (1/14)

President's party tends to lose seats in the midterm congressional elections


Forms of direct democracy

Initiative / proposition - 2016 marijuana California

Referendum - Changes to the state constitution

Recall election - Scott Walker - Wisconsin 2012


Possible reforms of the Electoral College

Direct election - (2007 Washington Post poll - 72% in favour)

Congressional district system - Used in Maine and Nebraska

Proportional system 


How much of the minority vote did Clinton win in 2016?

African-American - 88%

Hispanic - 66%

Both down from Obama

However, Repbublican 20% majority of the white vote same as in 2012


Gender voting at the 2016 election

Women - 12% Democrat majority - same as Obama

Men - 12% Republican majority - Improvement on Romney and McCain


2016 election education level voting statistics

Trump's margin among whites without a college degree - 39% (Largest since 1980) - 25% for Romney