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According to the United States Constitution, a presidential election is to be held once every fourth year. After announcing to run for the party nomination, candidates from both major and minor political parties and independent candidates begin to raise money and campaign at least one year in advance of the general presidential election. In order to officially represent a political party, a candidate must be nominated by that party.
The nominating process officially begins with the first state primaries and caucuses, which usually occur in the month of February of the election year (Ben’s Guide 1). There are many factors that influence who will ultimately become the candidate for a party. The public’s perception of the candidates is influenced by such things as media reports, public opinion polls, candidate preference surveys, and advertising.
Of late, the Internet has become the essential tool for all political candidates to announce their campaigns, release new campaign ads, answer questions posted by voters, post videos and photos, and raise awareness as well as funds (Gordon-Murnane 1) The Internet also acts as a platform for candidates to attract and connect with the younger generation of voters. There is intense campaigning for the primaries and caucuses all over the country during the spring of an election year.
This process reaches its peak at the national conventions of the political parties. Once at the national party conventions, the delegates from the states cast votes for the person who will represent the political party in the November general election. In order to secure a party’s nomination, a candidate must receive a majority of the votes from the delegates. It is not unusual for delegates to vote several times before one candidate secures the majority of the votes and officially becomes that party’s candidate for the election to determine the next President of the United States. The candidate for President then must choose a vice-presidential candidate.
If a President is running for re-election, this nomination process must be completed. Even if the President does not have any opponents from within his own political party, the national convention will still occur. The conventions are extravaganzas, full of pageantry and showmanship. They serve to help jump start the general election campaign for the presidential candidates. The primary election process ends with the national conventions of the political parties.
Once the national conventions have been held, and the candidates from the political parties have been nominated and chosen, the presidential election begins in earnest as a contest between the candidates from the political parties. Some people choose to run for president without being affiliated with a political party. Such independent candidates need not concern themselves with getting nominated by a party, but must meet other requirements. For example, such candidates are required to collect a large number of signatures to support their nominations. The sources of funding used by independent candidates must come from personal funds and loans as well as fundraising campaigns (Ben’s Guide 1).
Today’s presidential candidates wages three campaigns at the same time. The first is the grassroots campaign during which party volunteers register voters, make phone calls, send out mail, help friendly voters apply for absentee ballots, put up signs, do door-to-door canvassing, and get out the vote on Election Day. The second level of campaigning is on the ground, and includes all of the candidate’s appearances and speeches, as well as the appearances throughout the country of key supporters, from the candidate’s spouse and children to the vice presidential nominee, Hollywood celebrities, and prominent party leaders.
The third campaign in which the candidates are engaged is an on-the-air battle of radio and television commercials. This advertising is the most expensive line item in the campaign budget (Procon 1). For successful campaigning at all levels, the candidate must hire a campaign manager, finance team to raise funds, hair/makeup specialist to maintain a good image, communications team to plan media strategy, political team to devise strategies, foreign policy advisors to advise the candidate on key foreign issues and a field team for door-to-door canvassing.
The candidates campaign right up until Election Day, when the nation finally votes for its President. During the campaign, the candidates travel throughout the country, making public appearance and giving speeches. The parties and the candidates use media advertising, direct mailings, telephone campaigns, and other means to persuade the voters to choose one candidate over the other(s). Often, these measures also serve to point out the weaknesses of the candidates from the other parties involved in the general election. On Election Day, every citizen of legal age has an opportunity to vote. However, the President is not chosen by direct popular vote but by a constitutional process called the Electoral College.
These are the steps in the presidential campaign from announcing to run for the party nomination to Election Day in November.
Gordon-Murnane (2007). The 51st State: The State of Online. Web.
Ben’s Guide to U.S. Government 6-8 (2002). U.S. Government Printing Office. Web.
Procon (2008). How to Become U.S. President: A Step-by-Step Guide. Web.