How We Choose Our Presidential Candidates: An Inside Look Behind the Scenes

Seth Masket
Seth Masket
University of Denver
Seth Masket is professor of political science and Director of the Center on American Politics at the University of Denver. He is the author, most recently, of Learning from Loss: The Democrats 2016-2020 and his research has appeared in the American Journal of Political Science, the Journal of Politics, the British Journal of Political ScienceState Politics and Policy Quarterly, and other peer-reviewed publications.. Professor Masket contributes regularly to the FiveThirtyEight and Mischiefs of Faction blogs.

Overview

Article Two, Section One of the United States Constitution discusses the procedures to be followed when electing the president of the United States, but it does not provide guidance for how to nominate a presidential candidate. As we all know, candidates go through a series of state primaries and caucuses where, based on the number of votes they receive from the electorate, they are assigned a certain number of delegates who will vote for them at their party’s convention.

But how does it really work? That’s the focus of this fascinating talk — as told primarily through the lens of the Democrats’ decision to nominate Joe Biden for 2020, as well as the Republicans’ continued support of Donald Trump.

The choice of Biden was hardly a fluke, but rather a strategic choice by a party that had elevated electability above all other concerns. As one of the nation’s leading political analysts, Professor Seth Masket offers unique insight into the election process at a moment of uncertainty and confusion. He traces the persistence of party factions and shows how interpretations of various diverse narratives emerged to explain defeat in 2016 — ranging from a focus on ‘identity politics,’ to concerns about Clinton as a flawed candidate. These narratives collectively cleared the path for Biden.

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