Nominations & Conventions

Current Practices

Front-Loading, Caucuses and Primaries
related video
Susan Brophy on party strategy.
Michael Goldman on the role of primaries in the nomination process.
Jack Corrigan on the role of primaries in the nomination process.

Since the 1970s, states have held their primaries earlier and earlier to increase their influence over the nomination process.  In turn, it is difficult for poorly funded and lesser-known candidates to secure the nomination.  Following George W. Bush’s defeat of John Kerry in 2004, Democrats created the Commission on Presidential Nomination Timing and Scheduling.  Any states that violated these guidelines could lose all or half of their delegates at the convention.  In 2008, Florida and Michigan scheduled primaries in January and lost half of their delegates at the convention. The new rules did not prevent states from holding early primaries to increase their influence.  On Super Tuesday (February 5), 16 states held primaries.

As Republicans won four out of five presidential contests between 1968 and 1988, they were slower to change their processes.  However, when Bill Clinton won back-to-back victories in the 1990s, Republicans began questioning the increasingly early primary calendar and the candidates it produced.  In 2004, Republicans, like Democrats, chose to punish certain states that held primaries before February 5th.  When five states moved their primaries ahead of that date, the Republican National Committee  stripped them of half of their delegates.