Before, During, and After the Primaries
Political scientists who study presidential nominations essentially offer two frameworks for explaining the presidential nomination process in the modern era. The explanations that emerged in the 1970s and 1980s often focused on whether candidates gained or lost momentum during the caucuses and primaries. 1 These explanations can be considered to be candidate-centric in that they focus on various aspects of candidates’ campaigns and on the candidates’ appeal with party identifiers. Candidates’ policy positions and personal characteristics like leadership, charisma, and integrity are central factors in candidate appeal. Candidates’ abilities to communicate to voters-through organizational outreach, advertising, and the mass media-also affect their chances of winning a nomination. Campaign finance matters because money is needed to pay for professional staff and advertising. A candidate’s chances of winning ultimately depend on their appeal to voters in primaries and caucuses.