Do Parties Or Voters Choose Presidential Nominees?

In our primary system, are party elites actually pulling the strings?
5:12 | 01/16/20

Coming up in the next {{countdown}} {{countdownlbl}}

Coming up next:



Skip to this video now

Now Playing:


Related Extras
Related Videos
Video Transcript
Transcript for Do Parties Or Voters Choose Presidential Nominees?
Today in America the way we choose presidential nominees is by having voters go to the polls and witty and and who they want their party's candidate to be. But there's a theory called the party decides that says behind the scenes the parties are actually pulling the strings. And determining who the party's nominee will be. Today we're gonna check out whether or not that theory holds up looking at historic election. As we discussed in the last episode the system that we have today were voters choose presidential candidates began in the seven. Back then there's reason to believe that the parties were doing it SI in large part because they didn't know how to exert their power. At the time Republicans were running incumbents so they didn't have much deciding to get ready. On the democratic side however the party apparatus wasn't particularly keen on either of the candidates who ended up winning the nomination back deck. The first was South Dakota senator George McGovern who faced an anybody but McGovern campaign here this second it was Jimmy Hart. When he ran for Senator Ted Kennedy from his own party ran a primary. Against. Now the president of the United States what I've had expressed on television the other evening and that is I have every intention of continuing. In this campaign ads that. In the seven is the parties were clearly not decide that doesn't mean however that the theory is altogether ought. Throughout the seventies the parties were learning how this new process worked and by the eighties they can play that system. In other words used money and influence to get their preferred candidates nominated. So how can we tell whether or not this is happening if it's all behind us. One way is by looking at party endorsements heading into the Iowa Caucuses the first contest and the and the data shows that from the eighties through the early 2000. Any candidate who entered the Iowa caucus with a clear lead in party endorsements. Went on to win that party's nominee. A prime example of this is the 2000 election between vice president Al Gore and governor of Texas George Bush. Both parties we are we wind up behind those two candidates gave them resources. And in the actual primary. Owl gore went on to win every single nominating contest and George Bush won 44. Things changed though in the elections since 2000. Importantly with regards to -- Internet and fun. The 2004 election is a good example with Howard Dean running for the democratic. Howard Dean appeal to voters on the injured and was able to fund raise through the Internet as well we didn't have to rely as heavily. On the normal sources of support like the party or the mainstream media in order to begin to gain traction. In fact he ran against the party as part of primary yet. It. So Howard did not want to win the nomination in 2004 but his campaign show that there were cracks forming in the party decides model. The next couple elections revealed some vulnerabilities and the theory as well. For example in 2008 going into Iowa Hillary Clinton was the leader in endorsements but Barack Obama won the nominee. That's that Obama was well respected among party insiders and do you already have some endorsements. But then in 2016. On the Republican side. The party decides model home. We fell apart. It's hard to remember him now but when Donald Trump got into the Republican primary he didn't have any parties have. Not a single member of congress endorsed his campaign for eight months. And it wasn't until after you've already won multiple primaries that he got his first congressional endorsement. All that didn't matter the party wasn't people to decide. Donald Trump got about 30% of support in initial primaries. And that was enough to win him the Republican Party nomination. Without almost any support on the part. All of this has to say. That the party can decide under a certain set of circumstances. And did decide for about two decades. But given today's environment. When candidates can appeal to voters and fund raise in unconventional ways the party doesn't seem to be able to necessarily. Decide. President trump is a great example. We'll see what happens on the democratic side and in the next episode we're gonna delve deeper into the US primary system and asking whether or not our system is actually Democrat. Thanks for watching. You enjoyed this episode makes or to subscribe to 538 on YouTube. And also check out the 530 politics podcast. Where will also exploring the US prime.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

{"duration":"5:12","description":"In our primary system, are party elites actually pulling the strings?","mediaType":"default","section":"ABCNews/fivethirtyeight","id":"68314474","title":"Do Parties Or Voters Choose Presidential Nominees?","url":"/fivethirtyeight/video/parties-voters-choose-presidential-nominees-68314474"}