Lesson Objectives:- The presidential primary
- Eligibility requirements
- Who runs for political office
- Managing a campaign
- Opinion polls and focus groups
If someone decides to run for the office of president, they have a long road ahead. At every turn, they need funds for campaigning. They need funds to travel the country, to assemble a staff, and to promote themselves as the likely candidate.
Then to become their party's candidate for president, they need to be chosen in the Presidential Primary.
The Presidential Primary is a statewide primary election of delegates to a political party's national convention, held to determine a party's presidential nominee.
But before a potential candidate can even decide to run, they must meet a certain set of criteria.
For President, a candidate must be a natural-born citizen of at least 35 years of age and have lived in the country for the last 14 years.
For Vice President: the criteria is the same as for president, with one addition -- they cannot be a resident of the same state as the presidential candidate.
For Senator: a candidate must be at least 30 years of age and a citizen for 9 years, plus a resident of the state they are elected to represent.
And for Representative: a candidate must be at least 25 years of age and a citizen for 7 years, plus a resident of the state they are elected to represent.
If you look at everyone serving in office, you will quickly see that certain groups are underrepresented. Historically and currently, most elected officials are white men, but that has been changing as African Americans, women, and Latinos have started winning more elections.
Until fairly recently, it was thought that women were only appropriate candidates for offices at lower levels like school boards or the state legislature. However, more women are taking higher offices in Congress, the Supreme Court, and recently, Hillary Clinton became the first female nominated by a party to run for president.
A candidate can come from any profession. Most are lawyers because it is easier for them to run a campaign while still handling their cases. Leaving their job to serve in office is actually considered a positive career advancement. It is good publicity if they ever return to the private sector, but also, most positions that lawyers strive to eventually attain like judgeships, state's attorney, or federal agency positions are by political appointment.
There is quite a bit to manage in a campaign. It begins with the Primary Election, an election in which political parties choose their candidates for the general election.
A General Election is the main election, normally held on the first Tuesday in November, that determines who will fill various elected positions.
Managing a campaign to make it through the various steps requires a very organized staff including experts in polling and marketing, fundraising and accounting, financial management, and technology management.
Campaigns used to be centered on the party, but that focus has changed to the candidate. This change in focus is the result of several factors, including changes in the electoral system, how television and computers have gained significance, and the increasing costs of running a campaign.
Years ago when party identification was most important, party organizations were already in gear to support their candidate. They could distribute literature and work towards getting people to vote.
A candidate-centered campaign has changed that because voters want to know more about the people who are running. Party affiliation only tells half of the story.
At every level of government, campaigns have tasks that they must carry out in order to make a campaign successful. That work used to be in the hands of volunteers and amateurs, but nowadays, that has changed with the increased significance of television as a campaign tool. Campaign tasks are now managed by a Political Consultant.
A Political Consultant is a paid professional hired to devise a campaign strategy and manage a campaign.
Political Consultants are not neutral. They will only work for candidates from the party they support.
Opinion polls play a big role in the presidential campaign. Polls are taken to determine if a candidate is likely to be elected. Polls are then taken throughout the process to gauge the candidate's performance.
A Focus Group is another tactic campaigns use to get ideas about how their candidate comes across to the public. They are a small group of individuals who are led in a discussion by a professional consultant to gather opinions on candidates and issues.
When focus groups are put together, it is a common practice to get a good sample of the public like "soccer moms," "Walmart shoppers," and "NASCAR dads." They normally discuss their feelings about a candidate and the issues, the kind of information that cannot be gathered by phone surveys.