Political Beliefs and Behaviors

“I – Like every politician at the federal level – am almost
entirely dependent on the media to reach my constituents. It
is the filter through which my votes are interpreted, my
statements analyzed, my beliefs examined. For the broad
public at least, I am who the media says I am.”
-Barack Obama
Warm up: What are the implications for our
government and democracy if President Obama’s
statement is true?
Daily Learning Goal: I can explain and analyze the
system of elections in the United States.
Types of Elections
• Primary Elections and Caucuses
– Nominating elections which voters choose which candidate from each party to
run in general election
– Closed Primary
• Only voters registered in the party may vote for candidate
– Open Primary
• Voters choose whichever candidates of either party by selecting party in the
voting booth
– Blanket Primary
• Voters choose whichever candidate of any party for different positions
– Caucus
• Meetings of party members used to select delegates and nominees
– California Democratic Party v. Jones (2000) (kept prop 198 in California from changing us
from a Closed Primary to a Blanket Primary)
• General Election
– Voters choose between all candidates nominated by political party or running as
– Anyone of any or no political party may choose whichever candidate no matter
party affiliation
Types of Elections
• Special Elections
– Voters must decide on an issue or a candidate in special
circumstances not related to a primary or general election
– Initiative
• Citizens propose a new law with enough signatures
– Referendum
• Legislatures refer a law to be voted by the people (a vote to determine
whether or not citizens support an action by their state legislature)
• EX: CA Prop 1 and 2 on new water laws
– Recall
• Citizens petition to hold an election to choose to remove a public official
– Special elections are only held at the state or local levels
Congressional Elections
• Primary Elections
– Candidate gathers signatures through a following
to be placed on ballot
– Primary election determines party nominee
• Incumbent
– A candidate who already holds the office they
are running for.
– Generally hold an advantage in Congressional
elections due to name recognition
Congressional Elections
• General Elections (party nominees who were voted in during the primary)
– Winner takes all system
• An election system in which the candidate with the most votes wins.
– Single Member Districts
• An electoral district in which voters choose one representative or official. (favors 2 party
– Held every two years on even-numbered years
• Every two years to elect Representatives
• Senatorial elections may be held (1/3rd of Senators each time who serve 6 year terms)
– Mid-Term Elections
• “Off-Year” Elections held between presidential elections
• Lower voter turnout – the incumbent President’s party generally has lowest turnout.
– Incumbency Effect
• Generally win elections due to low voter turn out, success in office, or good
– Reelection Rates of U.S. House and U.S. Senate (1964-2012)
• Franking privilege
– Free mailings to constituents
– Coat-tail Effect
• Weak or less known candidates win based on success of popular presidential candidate
through party affiliation
Review I
• What type of election year are we in?
• Based on current incumbency, which party
should this election year favor?
• Based on voter tendencies, give two reasons
why Republicans are heavy favorites to retain
control of the House of Representatives.
Presidential Elections
• Held every four years
• Phases of Presidential Candidacy:
– Exploration
– Announcement
– Primaries and Caucuses
– Nominating Conventions
– General Election Campaign
– Electoral College
The Nomination Game
• Nomination
– The official endorsement of a
candidate for office by a
political party.
• Paradox of Campaigns
– Candidates must appeal to
people further from the
political center in the
primaries and caucuses, but
must later appeal to the
center in the general election.
• Minority Parties
– Because of our two party
system with the primaries, it
is very difficult for minority
(small) parties to compete
The Nomination Game
• The Long Campaign
– Other countries have short campaignsgenerally less than 2 months.
– U.S. campaigns (especially for President) can
last 18 months or more.
• “There are few more demanding physical activities
than running for president, other than military
training or athletics at a very high level.” -Karl Rove
Caucus vs Primary
• Caucus
– meetings of party members
used to select delegates
and nominees.
– Requires a special strategy
and organizational abilities
– About a dozen states use
the caucus
– Iowa’s is first and is
considered the most
– Gets only a small amount
of voters due to the time
Caucus vs Primary
• Primary
– Elections in which voters choose the nominee
or delegates pledged to the nominee.
– Three basic methods of awarding delegates
• All or nothing (this creates problems with frontloading
and ending the primary early, financial strategy, and gives
a bump to those with name recognition)
• Awarded based upon congressional districts
• Proportional representation
• Frontloading
– a state holds its primary early to capitalize on
media attention
– Effect: States who go first have more say in
deciding the candidate
The Nomination Game
• Problems with the “long
– Disproportionate attention
to the early ones. (Iowa
and NH).
– Money plays a big a role.
– Participation in primaries
and caucuses is low and
voters are more extreme.
– Media is given a great deal
of power
• Once provided great drama,
but now they are a basic
formality- which means less TV
• Are still important to the party
to get the base organized and
motivated (Pep Rally).
• Party platform
– Statement of its goals, policies
and general beliefs.
• Official nominations and
candidate speeches.
Delegates to the Convention
• Primarily determined by the results of the primaries
and caucuses
• Delegates are primarily “mouthpieces” based upon
the primaries
– The McGovern Fraser Commission in 1968 wrote new
rules to increase the number of female and minority
delegates in the Democratic Party
• Party elites can act as trustees
– Super-delegates
• awarded seats based on the office they hold, such as being a
member of Congress or governor
• bring experience and represent the elite
• They are not required, unlike the regular delegates, to vote a
certain way and thus give more power to the party
The Election
• The campaign involves leadership and organization in order
to allocated the candidates scare resources of time, money,
and energy in pursuit of their political objectives.
• Media
– Most prevalent means used by candidates to reach voters
– Created Candidate centered election
Cover candidates background
Image/Personality coverage
Horserace reporting polls
Candidate sound bits
Focus on candidate gaffes
– Used by candidates
Mudslinging/Negative ads
Attention getting/choreographed public appearances and opportunities
Image building type ads
Sound bites
• The Internet
The Election
– Has quickly become a major role player
– 16% of Americans, but 54% of 18-29 year olds regularly receive emails, tweets, or
posts on facebook
– Great for donations
• Direct Mail
• Organizing the Campaign (manager, fundraiser, lawyers, consultants, staff, pollsters, press
secretary, & web site)
• Money (campaigns are costly and the money involved creates controversy)
• Strategy
– Focus on large states
– Focus on competitive states (swing states)
• Outcomes
– A realigning election
• An election during periods of expanded suffrage and change in the economy and
society that proves to be a turning point, redefining the agenda of politics and the
alignment of voters within parties
• (1932 FDR, 1994 Republicans, 2008 Democrats)
– Presidential Mandate
• Approached by a winning president that their agenda must be approved
• usually looks likes victories are larger because the winner take all electoral college
The Electoral College
• Electoral College, not the popular vote that determines the President
• Winner take All System
– Candidates who get the most votes wins all of the state’s electoral votes (all
but two states, Maine and Nebraska, do this)
– If no candidate receives a majority, then the House of Representatives must
choose between the top three electoral vote winners (has not occurred since 1824)
– Causes candidates to
• ignore states that they will win or lose regardless of the campaign and to focus only on
the competitive (swing) and big states
• Support issues that win a state with other costs (Bush, Pennsylvania)
• Choose a VP to provide regional balance
– Keeps third party candidates from winning electoral votes even with large
popular vote totals which reduces fundraising abilities
• Why don’t we change?
1st – Changing the constitution is difficult
2nd – Benefits small states
3rd – No clear consensus on a better way
4th – Favors the two party system
Review and Analysis
Due Wednesday at beginning of class (BOC).
Over time, the Presidential election cycle has
lengthened. This means that primary election
periods are longer, which might give the public more
time to examine a candidate’s credentials. Explain
why extended primary campaigns can be helpful,
and why in the long-run, they can also be harmful.
HINT: Think about the concepts like the primary
paradox, front loading, and the effect that the
media and advertising have on elections.
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