How the candidate is chosen

The race for the White House is particularly long. At least for the party that does not have an outgoing President running for re-election. Like, this time, the Democrats with Barak Obama.

The Republicans have to choose their candidate, Obama’s challenger.

Traditionally, the nomination comes at the party convention. But this is only the final act.

First, the competing candidates, who aspire to the party’s nomination, have to compete against each other and collect votes to take to the convention through primaries and caucus.


These are meetings of local party activists. The process of choosing candidates traditionally starts with the Iowa caucus in the first days of the election year. 

The voting method is proportional, but it takes place in picturesque ways. Alongside voting by ballot paper or show of hands, there are also more old-fashioned methods, such as those whereby the participants huddle up close to the candidates: counting makes it possible to cut out those who do not exceed a minimum number. 

The other candidates begin the “hunt” for orphaned sympathizers, and when the groups are finally formed, a second count of votes takes place.

Whatever the method of voting, the delegates are distributed according to the proportion of the votes collected by each candidate.


These are real votes, not always reserved for sympathizers or activists of the party holding them. In fact, there are two types of primaries, with some variations: closed (prevalent) or open (those in New Hampshire). 

In the first type, only voters registered on the electoral roll as voters of the party calling the election are eligible to vote.

In the second type, all voters can vote, including independents and sympathizers of other parties, provided they are registered on the electoral roll. Delegates are allocated on a proportional basis.


Traditionally, “Super Tuesday” is the day on which the largest number of votes are cast, with a large number of delegates up for grabs. This year’s (6 March) is, however, much smaller: there will be voting in 10 states, whereas in the 2008 primaries there were 24.


Caucuses and primaries assign each candidate their own delegates who then attend the convention. The number of delegates in the primaries and caucuses varies: the greater the number of inhabitants, the greater the number of delegates.

Primaries were first adopted at the federal level (already used in Wisconsin since 1903) in the 1912 elections.


The convention is the final moment towards which the whole system of caucuses and primaries tends: it is the party’s congress that chooses (but, more often than not, can only ratify the outcome of the primaries held previously) the candidates for president and vice-president and discusses and deliberates on the electoral program.

The nomination is the official investiture that a party gives to its candidate. The ticket is the definition given to the pairing of presidential and vice-presidential candidates.

The 2012 Republican convention is scheduled to take place in Tampa, Florida, from 27 to 30 August.

The Democratic convention will take place in Charlotte, North Carolina, from 3 to 6 September. The vote for the White House is scheduled for 6 November 2012.

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