Presidential Primer #3 – Candidate Selection

October 5, 2007

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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.

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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.

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Presidential Primer #2 – “The Most Powerful Man on Earth”

October 3, 2007

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Above: “Teddy” Roosevelt, President from 1901-1907. His foreign policy was to “Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick” 

This is the second instalment in my series on the American Presidency.  The first one defined who is eligible to become the President, this one discusses the power of the office.

 Reference for this discussion: Constitution of the United States, Article II, Sections 2 and 3.

In layman’s language here are the defined powers that the President has:

1) He is the Commander in Chief of the American armed forces.

2) He has the power to reprieve or pardon crimes against the United States, except for impeachment.

3) He can make treaties with foreign powers. They have to be ratified by 2/3 of the Senate.

4) The President can appoint ambassadors, judges of the Supreme Court and other ministers or officers of the federal government. These have to be ratified by Congress.  For example he appoints his cabinet and then Congress holds hearings to review the appointment. Then the ratify or not the appointment.

5) He can propose legislation to Congress. This is usually done through his annual “State of the Union” address to Congress.  Again Congress is not bound to pass the legislation, but it is formally placed on their agenda for consideration.

What makes the President of the United States the most powerful man in the world is one thing.

He is the Commander in Chief of the most powerful military forces in the world.  This effectly gives him the power to go to war. Congress must ratify or confirm his actions within 30 days. How and if they could do this in the case of a nuclear exchange is doubtful. Most ominously he has his finger on the nuclear arsenal of the world’s only remaining true superpower. Only he can trigger a nuclear strike. A military officer with the codes and controls to allow him to use this power always accompanies the President wherever he goes. This briefcase is referred to as the “nuclear football”.

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Above: Harry S. Truman (President 1945 – 1953) was the first President to have command over nuclear weapons and to use it. He ordered the use of the atomic bomb in World War II to end the war against the Japanese.

When the United States was in its infancy and was not a world power, the President was really only a powerful man in his own country. Now that it is a superpower with a nuclear arsenal and a formable military, he truly is the “most powerful man in the world”.

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Above: Photo of a hydrogen bomb test. This unthinkable power that can be unleashed in a nuclear war is apparent. It truly would end civilization as we know it.

Let us all hope that the office of the Presidency is always held by a man of wisdom and courage.


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