Questions regarding National Conventions and the American electoral process.


I just have a few question about the American electoral process. I look forward to your feedback.

  1. Are the delegates drawn from congressmen and senators? Who exactly is eligible to be a delegate?
  2. What is a delegates full title? Is it delegate to the national convention or electoral delegate?
  3. Party nominees don’t necessarily win general elections. The losers in the nominee race will compete in the general election anyway. So why bother having a nominee in the first place.
  1. From the Council on Foreign Relations
  1. Delegate. You could say delegate to the national convention but nobody does.

  2. I have no idea what you mean by this. The two major parties each need a nominee to run for the Presidency. The conventions confirm who that nominee is. None of the losing candidates in either party run in the general election. Where did you get the idea they did?

In caucus states, the delegate selection process is even more grassroots. You’ll have several levels of caucuses. At the lowest level, pretty much anyone who wants to can show up: Every person is, effectively, their own delegate. Then, depending on who wins how many delegates at each lowest-level caucus, some of the supporters who showed up to that low-level caucus will be chosen to move on to the next higher-level caucus, and so on. Eventually, you get to the actual state caucus, who will choose delegates for the national convention from among the attendees there.

[quote=“Exapno_Mapcase, post:2, topic:747296”]

  1. From the Council on Foreign Relations

Thanks Exapno Mapcase. I just want to confirm if I’ve understood you correctly. Delegates can be “local political leaders”. Do you mean mayors and governors? Can they be members of Congress or Senators? You say that superdelegates on the Democratic side can be drawn from members of Congress and former Senators (not incumbent Senators?)
Thanks for clearing up the other two points.

I don’t understand your third question either. It is possible for a person losing the nomination battle to run as an idependent; I believe that Trump did at one time threaten to do exactly that.

In 1948, the Dems asked every delegate to sign a pledge to support the national ticket. The delegates of several southern states refused and walked out to have their own convention to nominate Strom Thurmond on what was officially called the States Rights Democratic Party, informally the Dixiecrats. They were able to replace Truman by Thurmond in four states (SC, AL, MS, and LA) and the 38 electoral votes of those states plus one vote from TN, whose elector violated his pledge. Of course, Truman astonished virtually everyone and won handily.

[quote=“davidmich, post:4, topic:747296”]

I’m sorry You did say “former leaders of the Senate”, not former senators. But I am still interested in what you mean by “local political leaders”

[quote=“Hari_Seldon, post:5, topic:747296”]

I don’t understand your third question either. It is possible for a person losing the nomination battle to run as an idependent; I believe that Trump did at one time threaten to do exactly that.

Thanks Hari Seldon for clarifying that.

Thanks Chronos.

[quote=“davidmich, post:4, topic:747296”]

Think much more local than that–for example, people who volunteer for the local county office of their chosen party. Another example–precinct leaders, who often help with persuading people to get out and vote in the general election. (For comparison, my county has 242 precincts.)

The caucus process is politics at its most local, grassroots-iest level possible.

Interesting: The Oregon Democratic State Party sent both Dem. Senators and the four Dem. Congressmen and the Dem. Governor as National Convention delegates in 2012.

Members of Congress is an inclusive term meaning both Representatives and Senators. Therefore all sitting Representatives and Senators are automatically superdelegates. So are all sitting Governors. Mayors may be named as delegates, but are not automatically superdelegates unless they are members of the Democratic National Committee.

Those were all superdelegates, not delegates.

2012 Oregon Democratic Delegate Selection Plan

To be very specific, “local political leaders” need not have ever held any kind of office. They can be fund raisers and organizers for the local political party, or maybe a celebrity who gave someone a public endorsement and making them a delegate is a nice way to show appreciation. There are no formal qualifications for being a delegate.

Well, in theory, it is possible. But practically, it won’t, almost can’t happen.

There are 50 states, and an independent would have to get their name on the ballot in each one to be a national Presidential candidate*. Each state has different requirements to meet to get listed on the ballot, and specific deadlines. Many of the deadlines are quite early, and some requirements (like gathering thousands of signatures of registered voters in that state**) require starting quite early to get done by the deadline.

And the party nominating conventions are in the summer; there is very little time left (4-5 weeks) after them to do the work of meeting these ballot qualifications in all 50 states. The 2 major party nominees are automatically on the ballot, others have to work to meet the requirements. And if a candidate started that early, they would be working to run as an independent at the same time they were trying to get the endorsement of a major party – the party loyalists who are delegates would react very badly to that.

So in reality, a person has to choose between running as an independent or seeking a major party nomination qy=uite early – doing both at the same time is unlikely.

  • I suppose it’s possible to be a candidate on the ballot only in the biggest states, and still win enough electoral college votes to win.

** For example, here in Minnesota, a potential presidential candidate must get 2,000 signatures of eligible voters, and they must do so in a period of about 100 days. And many states are not as liberal as Minnesota.

In 1980, John Anderson campaigned for the Republican nomination. When it became apparent by April he could not win, he decided to run as an independent and got on the ballot in all 50 states. This is the closest to the scenarios mentioned above, although Anderson’s independent campaign started well before the Republican convention in July.

Right. The more appropriate description would be “prominent members of the local/state party”. Thus current or former party officials, current and former public officials other than those eligible for “superdelegate” status, city/county chairs, community leaders, spokespeople, fundraisers.

As mentioned re: Question 3, once there is a nomination at the national convention, the President/VP pairing selected in each becomes the official ticket of the respective party. The losing candidates have the theoretical choice of running as independents, though lately many states have been making it harder.

Something else that happens is that if the primary contenders, including the eventual nominees, already hold some other elective office, there is no requirement or mandate that they forego continuing in that office in order to run for President/VP, only to serve. You remain a Senator/Governor/Mayor/dogcatcher during the race and continue to be after election day. Not only that but, if the terms calendar so lines up, you can even stay running for reelection in your extant post simultaneously with running for POTUS/VP(e.g. Joe Lieberman in 2000, ran for VP *and *for reelection as Senator). If elected President VP, then you resign the other post at a date convenient to ensuring that your terms in each office don’t overlap and your older office’s regular succession process can take place in a reasonable manner.

This is dependent on state law. Some states allow this; some don’t.

Though I don’t think that the states that don’t allow it have had their laws tested in the courts; it’s possible that such a limitation is unconstitutional.

I don’t think that’s the case in all states, possibly not in any of them. Major party candidates still have to file for candidacy with the minimum number of signatures or whatever the requirements for being on the ballot in a particular state is. It’s just that they have a local party to do that for them.

In New York your party is automatically on the ballot if it got 50,000 votes in the most recent gubernatorial election. Other states similarly grant automatic access to peviously successful parties. Wikipedia has a partial state-by-state list.

Ross Perot also ran as an independent (1992). He built on Anderson’s work, and with a decent amount of his own money, added to the court challenges to contest rules making it difficult for a third party to be on the ballot.

  1. There are “superdelegates” and delegates selected at the primary polls or caucuses. Superdelegates, as mentioned, are party notables (governor, members of congress and senators, some party bosses, etc.) They have an automatic accreditation to the convention, at least in the Democratic party. On CNN you will see frequent mention of Hillary’s massive delegate count lead due to these “superdelegates” because a lot of the party insiders have already said they intend to vote for her. However, they are free to change their mind.

Regular delegates are people nominated by the candidate’s organization - helpers, friends etc. - to be “delegates” to the convention. Each candidate in the primary puts forth a list of nominated delegates, and the delegateships(?) are awarded based on the proportion of the vote that candidate gets. (Some states have a winner-take-all system). Some states (most? all?) explicitly require these delegates to vote for whom they committed to and were selected (“elected”) to vote for - at least on the first ballot.

  1. “Delegates”? “Delegates to the party’s national convention”?

  2. The losers of a nomination fight can compete in an election outside their party - however, it’s not a great tactic. First, a lot of the ground organization, particularly in a large state or nation-wide are members of the party. Parties help with a lot of the process of electioneering, from organizing events to grass roots “getting out the vote” to simple things like distributing signs and pamphlets. You better be pretty popular to drag those volunteers away from the official party candidate. Plus, crossing the party can be the kiss of death politically. Cross the party, why would they support you next time.

there were a few people who have done so. IIRC, some congress or senate candidate last election barely lost his nomination to a Tea Party surge and ran as an independent against that TP guy. Usually a situation like this splits the vote, so the other guy gets in.

But generally, the losers in the nomination fight are expected to at very least not obstruct the winning nominee in the election against the other party’s candidate. Often, in presidential contests, they will campaign for the candidate - after all, politics is all about schmoozing and by helping the party’s candidate they build brownie points if that loser wants to try again next election…

Also, Bernie Sanders is right - a lot of politics is financed by rich people who donate the massive sums needed to fight a successful campaign. It’s not bribery, but it is a for of “doing a favour” and of course to ensure your lobby efforts later are listened to. A person who donates to a candidate that is crossing his own 0party may find that the favours are fewer and the opportunities to bend ears fewer. So the money is less available too. Whereas money donated to a party’s candidate is appreciated by the whole organization.