Presidential Primer #3 – Candidate Selection


With a serious contender, Hillary Rodham Clinton, running for the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party in 2008, the photo above takes on a little more significance. It is the 1984 Democratic Party ticket of Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro. They were soundly defeated by the Republican ticket of President Ronald Reagan and Vice president George H.W. Bush. How are these candidates selected by each party. Read on and find out. 

A good example of candidate selection for President of the United States is occurring right now. Hopefuls from both the major parties, Republican and Democratic, are announcing their runs and also touring States where Primary Elections will be held starting early in 2008.  The primary elections are used by each party to narrow the field of candidates prior to their conventions.  These conventions are usually held during the summer of election year. Before the primary system candidate selection took place entirely at the convention. Now by the time the convention arrives there is usually a candidate who already has enough delegate votes to win the nomination of the party.  Once he becomes the nominee he then selects a vice presidential running mate which the convention delegates then rubber stamp.

 The party conventions are used to set policy and to rally the party faithful for the election in the fall. The only real intrigue usually occurs when the presidential nominee picks his running mate, the vice presidential candidate.  This person is usually selected for his or her ability to get votes in certain key states or for their experience in areas that the presidential nominee may be lacking.


Above: Geraldine Ferraro, first female vice presidental nominee from a major party.

These “tickets” consisting of the presidential and vice presidential candidate from each party then campaign for votes in the general election held in November.  By law the general election is held the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

The president is not elected directly, but rather voters are actually voting for Electors.  These electors represent each party’s candidate. The winning candidate in each state then gets the Electoral votes for that State. Most states have a winner take all rule.  So if the Republicans win Iowa for example with the most Electoral votes, they get all of the votes. Maine and Nebraska are exceptions.  For more on the Electoral System see my earlier post “How is the President of the United States Elected” in the archives where I discuss this at length.

After election day the winning candidate is referred to as the “president-elect”.  In fact he is not officially the “president-elect” under the Constitution until the Electoral Vote is taken and ratified by Congress. The winning set of electors meets in each state capital on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December, shortly after the general election. They cast their votes and they are sent under seal to the Congress which then counts and ratifies the vote. Once that has occurred the winner on the November election is now Constitutionally the “President-Elect” of the United States.

He is finally sworn in as President of the United States for a four year term at noon on January 20th of the year following the election.  That is also the exact time that the sitting President’s term comes to an end.

The next instalment will talk more about the term and perks of the office.

One Response to Presidential Primer #3 – Candidate Selection

  1. Kat says:

    Boy, that photo sure brings back memories! I was 11 at the time of the Mondale/Ferraro running and it is the first Presidential race I remember. I was so excited that a woman might just be VP. I was too young to understand any of the politics behind the candidates, but I was a staunch Mondale/Ferraro supporter anyway. I can remember watching TV that night as all the polling data came in. I was just crushed when they didn’t win. And then… the next morning.. I got up and went roller skating and all was just fine again in my world. LOL.

    Lets hope we do better this time with a female candidate!

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