10.5 Getting Nominated and Campaigning for Office
Recruiting and selecting candidates for office is the function taking up most of a party's energy and interest. Parties have generally been the mechanism for the selection of candidates for public office. 'Direct primary' was the method adopted in order to democratize party selections. Every member of the party gets the right to vote on party candidates in a primary election. The state generally supplies the ballots and supervises the primary election that is held before general election in November. There are two kinds of primaries. In the closed primary, the party permits only the party adherents to vote. However some states hold an open primary election in which any qualified voter can participate in the primary of any party, without the necessity of revealing his party affiliation.
10.5a Primary Elections
Primary elections are not only a means of nominating candidates to be voted on in the general election, but also an opportunity to elect party official from precinct leader to national committeeman, including delegates to party conventions. Further, primary elections indicate a growth of popular influence and control over the conduct of government as well as a means of discouraging party machines and cliques. A runoff election is usually held in case there are many candidates and one of them does not secure a majority of the votes.
10.5b Nominating a President
In order to attain the presidency, a person has
to be first nominated at this party's national convention. The national
convention is a famous and unique political institution at which
party delegates meet, usually in June or July, of each election
year, to formally nominate presidential candidates. In Presidential
primaries, the candidate securing most of the primary votes gets
all of the state's delegates. The delegates from the local level
may also be chosen for the county caucus, in caucus states. They
then go to the state convention. Thus, much before the convention
itself, the party's nominee for President is selected at the primaries
10.5c Political Campaigns
The political campaigns usually start a year or two before the convention itself. The campaigns are the most intensive and prolonged efforts to win the high office of the President. The candidates travel in elaborately manned and equipped trains and planes, to make a series of carefully planned addresses in key cities. Campaigns include the use of radio and television in order to reach millions of listeners, keenly interested in the presidential sweepstakes. Millions of pieces of campaign literature are distributed and thousands of campaign workers work tirelessly at the tasks of winning votes.
Political campaigns are indeed costly undertakings. Initially, no attempt was made by the federal government to control the financing of elections. However by the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, and subsequent amendments, a limit has been imposed on the amount that can be given to presidential candidates by individuals and organizations like political action committees. The Federal Election Commission (1974) imposed a spending limit on presidential primaries. Further only candidates who raise a certain amount of contributions on their own, are given federal matching funds.