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

Seth Masket / University of Denver

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.