The Race for the Presidency Begins
As 2024 begins, the spotlight shifts to the fascinating world of presidential primaries in the United States. For Democrats, President Joe Biden seeks a second term, and is very likely to be the party’s nominee, given that any other challengers in his party like Rep. Dean Phillips and author Marianne Williamson have failed to make a dent in opinion polls. On the Republican side, former President Donald Trump seems to be the favorite. Yet, some Republicans are cautiously looking at options like Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis. Presidential primaries in the U.S can be a confusing process, but this article includes a quick guide to understand them.
Despite months of events, debates, and polls, the first act opened on January 15th with Iowa’s caucuses, a slightly different method to choose the candidate, which was won by Donald Trump by an ample margin. Democrats in Iowa vote by mail, with the process wrapping up on March 5th. The first actual primary election follows close behind on January 23rd, paving the way for South Carolina on February 3rd, and Nevada on February 6th. Republicans hold caucuses in Nevada on February 8th, and South Carolina on February 24th.
Voting takes different forms across the country. Most states use secret ballots like regular elections. A few still do caucuses, where everyone raises their hand or joins a group for their preferred candidate, with specific rules, often limited to party members, adding another layer to the mix. While this process is exciting, it is just the first part of a month’s long process that ends in the national party conventions later this summer. So, the results of the first few elections might not reflect the final result. For instance, President Biden in 2020 did not win in Iowa or New Hampshire, but a big win in South Carolina propelled him to the Democratic nomination and, ultimately, the presidency. Similarly in 2016, Trump defied expectations by winning New Hampshire despite losing Iowa, following the path paved by Mitt Romney in 2012.
The winners of each of these processes get allotted a number of delegates, which, given the state, can be proportionally awarded to the candidates given the result or go to the candidate with the highest number of voters. As the year progresses and the 2024 conventions approach, the potential candidates become clearer. Republicans meet in Milwaukee, Democrats in Chicago. To become the Republican nominee, a candidate needs a majority of delegates, around 1,235, who will vote in the convention. Some delegates are tied to their state’s initial choice, but others can change sides depending on how the convention vote unfolds. This year, the Democratic nominee will need to win 1,895 pledged delegates, but given current race conditions, it is quite likely that President Biden will be the nominee.
Here in Alaska, the Republican primary will be held on March 5th. But as we wait, it’s important to remember that every vote counts and every voice matters. So, it’s important to participate in every way you can, whether by voting, or simply talking with your neighbors about your stance on the issues. We all have a role to play in this primary election process.