Election 2020: How do America’s presidential primaries work? | The Economist

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Even for hardened American voters… …the process of selecting a candidate to run for president can seem… …convoluted… …confusing This is ridiculous This whole process has been screwed up And sometimes, just plain weird Everybody who is in favour of Bernie Sanders please raise your hand Here’s what you need to know to make sense of it Every four years presidential candidates travel the length and breadth… …of the country in pursuit of their party’s nomination The support they get in each state or territory translates to… …delegates who attend a national convention in the summer… …where the party’s choice for president is announced Those state contests take one of two broad forms Primaries work like regular elections, in the sense that primary voters… …cast their votes in ballot boxes and then the totals are added up… …to see who’s won Caucuses are essentially public votes rather than private ones What happens during a caucus is there are meetings statewide… …in places like town halls and school gyms and the caucus-goers… …gather in different groups to support the candidate that they like Caucuses can get particularly confusing At some voters can switch from one group to another… …during the course of the event… …until the delegates are eventually allocated… …in proportion to each candidate’s final tally In 2016 the Democratic Party held 14 state caucuses… …as part of its nominating procedure In 2020, just three Caucuses are falling out of fashion… …in part because they’re so time-consuming for caucus-goers… …but also because they’re really complicated for state parties to administer What happened in Iowa? The smartphone app did not work as promised The chaos at the Iowa caucuses this year may prove to be… …the death knell for this way of picking candidates That’s the thing about this whole process The rules can change from year to year… …from state to state… …and from party to party Even just the question of who is allowed to vote… …draws a bewildering array of answers The important thing about who votes in primaries is that… …they tend to be more ideological and more politically engaged… …than the electorate as a whole That means that the candidates running in primaries… …tend to have to play to their base… …and then as soon as the primaries are over… …they have to try and tack back towards the centre Over the years the primary calendar has regularly shifted… …in part because states that vote early can hold more sway This is the CBS evening news, Dan Rather reporting The Democratic contest is still wide open We’re gonna give it everything we have… …as we have in every single state and caucus in the country But it may not be that simple In the 1988 Democratic primary, a group of southern states… …banded together and agreed to hold their primaries on the same day “Super Tuesday” was their effort to nominate… …the kind of moderate Democrat southerners tend to vote for The primary voting day political pundits have been talking about for months… …finally arrived today Thanks Bob The inventors of Super Tuesday in the Democratic Party… …wanted to steer the nomination to a southern moderate… …or at least a moderate from somewhere… …and keep down Democratic voter defections to the Republicans in November In 2020 California became the latest… …and most delegate-rich state to vote early More than a third of the delegates up for grabs in the Democratic primary… …are now allocated on Super Tuesday After Super Tuesday, the field almost always narrows… We are suspending our campaign …as state polls continue into the spring or summer The primary process culminates at the party convention… …where delegates pledged to each candidate formally cast their vote I proudly cast 163 votes for the first woman president… …of the United States of America—Hillary Clinton Usually this is political theatre… …the frontrunner already guaranteed the support of a majority of delegates But very occasionally, in a close race, the convention can become a real contest If candidates stay in the race right up until the bitter end in July… …that makes it likelier that one candidate can lead… …in the primary, without ever having won a majority of votes And if that candidate fails to win a majority, voting continues… …until they, or someone else, can At this point, all bets are off Because after the first ballot… …delegates no longer have to vote… …for the candidate they were pledged to support The horse-trading that follows might even oust the frontrunner In 2020 this is how a contested convention could in theory… …prevent Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden… …from winning the Democratic Party’s nomination There’s a scenario where Bernie Sanders is in front… …but doesn’t quite manage to win a majority of delegates In that case, I think that he would be the nominee anyway It’d simply be too difficult for the convention in Milwaukee… …to take the nomination away from a frontrunner I humbly accept your nomination I accept your nomination Once the nominee is formally revealed… …there’s just one small matter remaining… Reporting for duty …winning the general election


  1. Everybody is talking about Democrats but what about Republicans? Has Trump already ein or did He never face any competition.

  2. when you're American and voted in the democratic primaries yesterday and are still confused by this entire voting system (primaries, Caucasus, national convention etc.)

    thank you Economist Team for pulling this video together! i found it very helpful.

  3. 🇺🇸 We need United Nations
    to insure fairness and above board
    elections. One person / One vote

  4. Its called manipulation, keep the voters distracted this year the GMO virus wins hands down plus agenda 21/2030 in the works! 😉🤣🤣🤣 not funny!😖😡 Just wait…😉 public is waking EVEN FASTER!

    edited hmmm still idiots out there though….scroll down please!😉

  5. It's simple: You're given a choice between heart attack and cancer. May you have the courage to Choose wisely.

  6. How do they work? The people in charge close polling stations in poor and/or minority neighborhoods, or other places where the demographic is not favoring the candidate they want.

    Then you have long lines of voters at the only places available, which are running out of ballots due to poor supply, glitching voting machines, or they give you "provisional ballots" that often aren't even counted.

    And then an old guy in the early stages of dementia, who has not even been campaigning in the state, and has been telling people to vote for Trump or someone else, forgetting who he's talking to, or where he is….. Somehow he wins.

  7. What’s weird about some of these primary events [caucuses] is, people can’t bribe you, but they can give you baked goodies in hopes of luring you to a particular party. There’s also an element of social pressure and likely a herd instinct.

  8. Let me simplify this for you… the Constitution says that the states get to elect the president. Not the people. The states can select whatever process they want to distribute their electoral votes, including throwing darts at a dartboard.

    The political parties are private clubs. They can use whatever process they want, including rolling dice, to select a nominee.

    Originally only the House of Representatives was by direct vote. The Senate was made a direct vote by Constitutional Amendment.

    If you don't understand this information, you will not understand how elections run.

  9. The production values of this video were on point though it didn't really clear anything up for me, perhaps this is because I have no prior knowledge as I am from Australia

  10. Biden's mantras did not help.
    The British airline Flybe broke due to a coronavirus.
    This awaits all US airline companies.

  11. I am indian I felt disappointed after end of this video…..after looking at comments….I feel ok now….!!!

  12. The building at 0:47, around the time the narration says "attend the national convention", is a building in Ireland called the "Convention Centre Dublin". I guess they just Google convention and that building popped up.

  13. I wish they would have played the "Curb Your Enthusiasm" theme after that lady announced the votes they submitted for Hillary.

  14. Someone please tell me if I got this right:
    1.Caucuses require you to go in physically to count your vote. And when you participate in caucuses you automatically become a delegate ?
    2. Primaries, or also know as Super Tuesday, are held to get a realistic idea who can win the final election. Therefore, a lot of democratic and republican running to be president drop out of the race if they see they got low votes.
    3. After primaries the National convention is held. This is where delegates pick a nominee to be one of the front runners in the final election.
    4. Final election time. After many rounds of voting (caucuses, primaries, conventions)The people (aka the delegates) vote who they want as president, and BAM! President 2020 is here!

    If I got something wrong please let me know!!! I want to understand the voting process!

  15. More complicated the process is, more easily it can be rigged. How about just "People vote, top wins" rule?

  16. Okay but why is there a photo of Convention Centre Dublin (located in Ireland) in the thumbnail of this video?

  17. The reason some Americans are confused by our political processes is that most of our schools don’t teach civics anymore.

  18. Democrats divide Republican unites WALK AWAY voted Democrat 50 years but what they been doing to trump since he took office is bad for the American taxpayers

  19. DONT PICK BIDEN……. just a guy to follow same agenda as trump just not as mouthy as trump but they are the same. If you want change , pick Bernie . ……. joe??? You’re a creep , check out videos of him kissing kids , that’s a friggin creepy old man, I wouldn’t have him around my kids.

  20. Less blah blah blah, more labor camps: who's with me? Ba'al-al-allah is great: glory to me🌞🐦🐍😱

  21. I don't understand why in Europe we're constantly bombarded with learning about the US when they can't even point to where their own country is, let alone Europe…

  22. The lobbyist run the primaries. There's no democracy here and it's really obviously. The whole "block Bernie" thing shows that.

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