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Berggren-Two Paths to Presidential Nomination

Berggren-Two Paths to Presidential Nomination - Two Parties...

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Two Parties, Two Types of Nominees, Two Paths to Winning a Presidential Nomination, 1972-2004 D. JASON BERGGREN Florida International University Contrary to findings that show the contemporary nomination process, regardless of party, favoring early frontrunners, this article shows that the eventual Democratic nominee is typically different from and often travels a different path to victory than the eventual Republican nominee. Since 1972, the eventual Democratic winners began as relatively unknown candidates with single-digit support who emerge as the frontrunner late in the process, sometimes just before the voting begins in Iowa and New Hampshire and sometimes just after the first votes are cast. John Kerry is only the latest Democratic example. In contrast, Republican winners have been national figures and have consistently been the early favorites a year before any votes were cast or large sums of money raised. To date, the accuracy of partyless models is driven largely by Republican successes. These models may be better at predicting Republican nominees than predicting Demo- cratic nominees. Since 1972, the story of who wins a party’s presidential nomination has not had one simple storyline: the early frontrunner wins. Instead, there appears to be two: early Republican frontrunners easily become the nominee; Democratic nominees struggle early and emerge late. Or, it may be said: certainty is to Republican frontrunners what change is to Democratic frontrunners (Newport and Carroll 2003b). 2004 had an “unexpected” finish—the Democratic “winner of the invisible primary” lost (Bernstein 2004). Though some may conclude that 2004 only represents “a strong counterexample” to prevalent views that frontrunners win, it is argued here that in fact 2004 was just another typical year for Democrats. Eventual nominee John Kerry’s road to the Democratic nomination was not unique. Instead, it was a road similarly D. Jason Berggren is a Ph.D. candidate and instructor in political science at Florida International University. His research interests include the presidency, religion and politics, and southern politics. He has published articles in Journal of Church and State , The Forum , and White House Studies . AUTHOR’S NOTE: I wish to thank Nicol C. Rae, professor of political science at Florida International University; Jamie L. Carson, assistant professor of political science at the University of Georgia; and the anonymous reviewers for their comments, advice, and encouragement. Presidential Studies Quarterly 37, no. 2 (June) 203 © 2007 Center for the Study of the Presidency
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traversed by previous Democratic nominees: watching other frontrunners fade or fall, coming from behind, often from single-digit obscurity, and winning late in the process.
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