The United States Primary Election is a process in which each party selects their presidential candidate. Also known as the primaries, these elections provide the people in each state with the opportunity to choose which of their party’s presidential candidate they would prefer to run for President. In some states these elections are open, which means everyone, who is an eligible voter, can cast their vote. However, in certain states the elections are closed (also called caucuses), meaning only registered Republicans can vote in the Republican caucuses and only registered Democrats can vote in the Democratic caucuses.

This whole process starts in the beginning of February. Actually, for the 2016 elections it begins on the very 1st of February, where the Iowa caucus is held (seen on the picture above). The process ends in June, although the winning candidate will in most cases have been found before then. In 2016, both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party will have a Primary Election to find their presidential candidates, since President Obama cannot run for reelection after his 2nd term ends. Last time there was a primary election in the US was in 2012, when the Republican Party had to choose their candidate to challenge the incumbent President Obama. The winner of that election was Mitt Romney, who subsequently lost to Obama in the general election.

The most recent winner of the primaries, Republican presidential candidate in 2012, Mitt Romney.

There is a lot of focus on the first states’ caucuses and primary elections, from both the candidates and the media. This is due to the importance of doing well in those and build up a momentum. For instance, if a candidate does really well in the early states such as Iowa (February 1st) and New Hampshire (February 9th), the attention of voters, the media spotlight and campaign donators will increase. The reason for this is that the candidate is now seen as one of the favorites and a realistic contender, someone who is worth voting for, donating to and cover in the media. This was the case when the at that time lesser known candidate Barrack Obama won the Iowa caucus over the favorite Hillary Clinton and provided himself with the momentum to win the Democratic nomination.

Conversely, if a candidate does really poorly in the first caucuses and elections he or she can easily be forgotten, as the media will focus its attentions on other candidates. Additionally, voters and donors will in many cases hesitate to throw their vote or money at a candidate who lack momentum, because if the candidate drops out that vote and the money would be wasted. Instead, they may be more incline to support a candidate with similar beliefs who did better and gained momentum in the early caucuses and elections. Thus, Iowa and New Hampshire are likely to start either a vicious cycle for the candidates who do poorly or create great momentum for those who do well.

Yet, it is important to remember that many of the early states in the primaries are having caucuses, which consists of party hardliners. In other words, the registered voters in the caucuses are less moderate than the rest of the nation. Hence, Republican candidates that are more right wing and Democratic candidates that are more left wing will have an advantage against their more moderate opponents. In the 2016 elections, this means that a more progressive candidate like Bernie Sanders (seen on the left above) might have an advantage against Hillary Clinton. The same goes for the more right wing candidates in the Republican field, such as Donald Trump (seen on the right above) and Ted Cruz, who will most likely do well in these early states. But nothing is certain, before only one candidate is left for each party. However, the first sign as to whom that might be, will be provided in Iowa on Monday February 1st 2016…

Want to read more about the presidential election process in general? Click here.

(Photo credit: Wikimedia & Gage Skidmore)