3. US Elections
• Cornerstone of a liberal democracy is the holding
of regular, fair elections.
• The right of citizens to be represented and to
vote was entrenched in the Constitution of the
USA (with the exception of women ex-slaves and
Native Americans who had to wait well over a
century for that right).
• As other groups such as became citizens, they too
were offered the right to vote.
• Probable that USA offers more elected posts than
any country in world, approx over 80,000.
4. US Elections
• The average voter in the US is assaulted with a
seemingly non-stop barrage of available voting
• These range from the President, through Congress to a
wide variety of state and local elections.
• We can’t look at them all here, and you are not
required to understand too many. While we will start
with the most well known – the contest for Presidency
– remember that examiners like us to show that we
understand that elections take place at other levels.
5. When do presidential elections occur?
• Every 4 years
• On the Tuesday after
the first Monday in
• Four stages
6. When do presidential elections occur?
Stage Functions Occurs
Primaries and caucuses Show popular support for
Choose candidates to
attend National Party
January – early June
National Party conventions Choose presidential
Decide on party platform
lasts about 4 days)
The campaign between the
candidates of various
September, October, first
week of November
Election day and Electoral
Elect the president and
7. Electing the President – Every Four
Pre-primaries Primary elections and caucuses National
Voting day Electoral count Inauguration of
At least one
9. Requirements for a presidential
ESSENTIAL (CONSTITUTIONAL) REQUIREMENTS
• Must be a natural-born American citizen
• Must be at least 35 years old
• There is a residency qualification of 14 years
The youngest ever president was Theodore Roosevelt, who was
just 42 when he became president after assassination of William
McKinley in 1901. The youngest ever elected president was John
Kennedy who was 43.
10. Requirements for a presidential
ESSENTIAL (CONSTITUTIONAL) REQUIREMENTS
• In 1951, the Constitution was amended to limit
presidents to two terms in office.
• The first president to feel this limit was Dwight
Eisenhower in 1960.
• Subsequently three more presidents have been
limited; Reagan (1980-1988); Clinton (1992-
2000); GW Bush (2000-2008)
11. Other ‘helpful’ requirements
• Wisdom would tell us that this is probably the most important
• Three groups of politicians are good pools or recruitment:
vice-presidents, state governors and Senators.
• One could also add members of the House of Representatives
to that list (however, very few of these manage to get
themselves regarded as leading candidates)
12. Other ‘helpful’ requirements
Democrat candidate Most recent
Joseph Biden Senator Sam Brownback Senator
Hillary Clinton Senator Rudy Giuliani Mayor
Christopher Dodd Senator Mike Huckabee Governor
John Edwards Senator Duncan Hunter Congressman
Dennis Kucinich Congressman John McCain Senator
Barack Obama Senator Ron Paul Congressman
Bill Richardson Governor Mitt Romney Governor
Fred Thompson Senator
13. Other ‘helpful’ requirements
• Of the 16 politicians who were nominated as
presidential candidates in the last 11 elections to 2008:
• 9 were or had been senators
• 6 had been vice-president
• 5 were governors
The last time either party nominated someone not from
this background was former WW2 general Eisenhower
14. Other ‘helpful’ requirements
MAJOR PARTY ENDORSEMENT
• If someone is serious about becoming president, it is vital
to be chosen as the candidate for one of the two major
• Even Eisenhower in 1952 had to become a Republican.
George Wallace (1968), John Anderson (1980), Ross Perot
(1992 and 1996) and Pat Buchanan (2000) show that third
party or independent candidates do not led to the White
15. Other ‘helpful’ requirements
• Historically up until 2008, all presidential candidates
for president had been white males.
• However, a remarkable fact of 2008 Democratic
presidential nomination race was that it came down to
a choice between a white woman and a black man.
• Given the pools of recruitment, it is hardly surprising
all candidates are normally white males.
16. Other ‘helpful’ requirements
• Even by 2008 there were only 16 women out
of 100 members in the US Senate and only
one African-American, Barack Obama.
• At the same time, only eight states had
• All vice presidents have been white males
17. Other ‘helpful’ requirements
• It is an advantage to be married.
• There has only been one bachelor president – James
Buchanan, elected in 1857.
• Until 1992, it was said that scandal involving marital
infidelity could rule out a possible candidate.
• Senator Ed Kennedy chances were ended by the
‘Chappaquiddick affair’, in which a young female
acquaintance drowned in his car after a late night
18. Other ‘helpful’ requirements
ABILITY TO RAISE MONEY
• It is crucial to a successful bid for the presidency.
• Campaigns are so expensive that very few
candidates can afford to finance their own
• Only billionaire candidates (Ross Perot – Steve
Forbes) can fund out of their own pockets.
• Candidates need vast sums. In 2007 Hillary
19. Other ‘helpful’ requirements
• During primaries, candidates cannot use the parties
organisation structure as they are all competing for the
• They therefore must create their own organisation. This
is time consuming and demanding but crucial to chances
• Michael Dukakis (1988) and Bob Dole (1996) had big
issues on this and went on to lose election.
• One of key reasons Obama succeeded v Clinton was his
20. Other ‘helpful’ requirements
ORATICAL SKILLS AND BEING TELEGENIC
• In media age being able to speak well and look
good on TV are crucial
• Would Abraham Lincoln or wheelchair bound
Franklin Roosevelt have succeeded now?