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The Presidential Election: The Saga So Far

The United States of America is arguably the world’s biggest superpower and most powerful country on the planet. Therefore, their president has a very serious job on their hands, hence why their presidential election is a rather drawn out façade.

This is partially to be expected due to the sheer size and diversity of their demographic, but even so, I’m sure I’m not alone in saying it feels like they’ve been campaigning f-o-r-e-v-e-r! (Especially as the election itself isn’t even until November.) However, not even Donald Trump can be blamed for the lengthy campaigns. The US’ strict constitution outlines the numerous processes and even the specific date that the election must be held on: The first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, every four years. Henceforth, we can look forward to many more prolonged campaigns to come!

But anyway, back to 2016! …Or should we say 2015, where it all began…

Raising funds

2015 saw the start of the invisible primaries, which are an unofficial stage of the election, taking place from around November a year before the election to February the year of the election. During these, candidates try and maximise their profile and raise their Warchest (the reserve of funds which will support their campaign). As this stage is so early in advance, you may be forgiven for thinking this stage is irrelevant – but you would be mistaken: the raising of money in America is quite astonishing! During the 2008 campaign, $5.3 billion was spent, implying any serious contender for the White House must have the ability to raise a great deal of money to ensure their lengthy campaign is well-funded. In past years, there has been a strong correlation between those who raise and spend the most and the successful candidate…hence why this ‘unofficial stage’ is key.

Candidates Emerge

By this point, the early frontrunners are beginning to emerge. Obviously with Donald Trump’s billionaire status and outlandish views, the media latched onto his presidential bid immediately and he quickly became a strong contender for the Republican nomination. Simultaneously, evangelical Christian Ted Cruz appealed to the far right wing, religious faction within the Republican Party. On the Democrat side, Hillary Clinton made her bid for the Presidency clear. Having been appointed to the position of Secretary of State by Obama in 2008, Clinton has had White House experience and an enviable insight into what being the President of the US really entails. Bernie Sanders (a Senator currently sat as an independent) also emerged as a strong contender, who is, in general terms, ideologically slightly more left than Clinton.

Nominees are selected

February the 1st arrived and, again following tradition, Iowa was the first state to hold their caucus, in which citizens express their support for their preferred candidates. This is where certain states differ from others: some have caucuses and others have primaries. A Primary is a simple election: you place a cross on a ballot paper and it’s all dandy, you’ve had your say. A caucus, on the other hand, is a series of meetings, whereby citizens join viable groups in support of different candidates – stick with me on this, it will all become clear! Caucuses tend to be held in states with a sparse population and a large geographical area, where holding a conventional style election simply isn’t practical due to people living too far away from each other. Thus citizens join groups in support of specific candidates and up to a certain date they can switch groups to prevent their vote being ‘wasted’. Either way, people in every state have an opportunity to express their preferences. Following this, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton came out on top for the Republican and Democrat party respectively.

Now the contest really begins. As November edges closer, all eyes are on these candidates and those all-important opinion polls to see who will come out on top.

Watch this space, the saga will continue!

I'm Claudia, a third year Politics student at the University of Exeter, who loves all things Her Campus!
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