Monday, December 31, 2007

History of the Primaries

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

It's been 32 years since the last time we saw a convention really decide the nominee: The Republicans in 1976. Why is that? Reforms instituted by the parties after the '68 elections allowed the primaries to flourish and make a large majority of the delegates bound to their candidate. And with normal political pressure not allowing more than two candidates to survive long into the primary season, it makes it easy for one candidate to gain a majority.

For more information on how the primary process evolved, CQPolitics is running an excellent series on the history of the primaries:

Part One: 1912-64
Part Two: 1968-72
Part Three: 1976-84
Part Four: 1988
Part Five: 1992
Part Six: 1996

Some highlights:
  • 1912 - North Dakota holds first primary in US
  • 1920 - New Hampshire starts first-in-the-nation primary
  • 1952 - New Hampshire (on March 11th!) 2nd place finish forces Truman to withdraw from race
  • 1968 - Too close New Hampshire win forces Johnson to withdraw; Kennedy wins June 4 California primary but is assassinated moments after delivering his victory speech.
  • 1976 - Carter "wins" Iowa caucuses (places 2nd to Uncommitted) setting him up for nomination
  • 1984 - A total of 35 states held primaries in 1980, up from 26 in 1976 and 20 in 1972. The campaign also presented an early signal of the “front-loading” of the primary calendar, as several states moved their contests to the early part of the process. From five contests held in March 1976, there were nine in March 1980, as well as two more on April 1.