The Problem with Presidential Primaries

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The Problem with Presidential Primaries

Ever since the election season of 1972, presidential primaries have become “the dominant means of selecting the two major party candidates.”i[i] The primary system is one in which the eligible voters of each state do one of the following: 1) Vote for a presidential candidate to run for their party in the general election. 2) Vote for a delegate pledged to vote for a certain candidate at the party’s national convention. As intended, this process would bring the candidate selection processes out into the open and “let the people vote for the candidate of their choice.”ii[ii] On the surface, this may look very democratic (and admittedly, in some instances it was/is), but upon closer
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Standing in his way was the fact that only one of the early primary states had a true open primary—Michigan. Both New Hampshire and South Carolina were considered “modified open primaries”iii[iii] that tended to discourage Independent voting. In addition, Delaware and Arizona were closed primaries that would not allow Independents or Democrats to vote. However, despite the closed primary, McCain’s home state of Arizona was essentially a lock.

Due to heavy campaigning, McCain was able to win New Hampshire by a “48% to 30%”iv[iv] margin. George W. Bush emphatically won the closed Delaware primary by a “51% to 25%”v[v] margin. Bush then went on to win in South Carolina’s modified open primary by a “53% to 42%”vi[vi] margin, thus robbing McCain’s hopes of gaining momentum. Despite this, McCain did get back on the winning track with wins in Michigan’s open primary and in Arizona’s closed primary.

Victories aside, McCain was still going against the mainstream Republicans who were backing Bush. The structure of the primaries early in the season allowed McCain to make a name for himself, but the fact that closed primaries worked and would continue to work against him made winning the nomination extremely difficult.

Proportional Representation vs. Winner-Take-All

Proportional representation is a system used by the Democrats that allows delegates to be
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