Friday, July 08, 2011


Even though the next presidential election is still more than a year away, political pundits are busy trying to figure out who the current Republican frontrunner might be and which of the contenders might have a realistic hope of obtaining the Party’s nomination and a realistic possibility of unseating President Obama. Having observed elections both up close and from the ease of my sofa, I have found that voting for candidates occurs in lengthy selection process that includes at least five stages. The outcome of each round in that process narrows the field of candidates and provides clues to the identity of the potential winner.
The first votes in an election are cast by political operatives. Working in the backrooms and back roads of America, they scour the country for candidates who will stand for election to offices at every level – city, county, state, national. Some of these operatives are party loyalists who see it as their duty to ferret out candidates who agree with their positions. Far more are paid employees of large corporations or influential political action committees. These operatives make their living locating candidates who agree with their employers’ political positions and facilitating their rise to office. Once they locate the right candidate, they offer inducements to entice the candidate to seek elected office. Those inducements include campaign contributions, technical assistance, and election expertise. The selection process by which these operatives find their candidates comprises the first round of voting. Candidates who are selected in this manner have a far better chance of success than those who choose to run for office simply on their own decision.
After professional political operatives vote, the potential candidates vote. They vote in the affirmative for themselves by agreeing to seek office. They signify that decision by filing the necessary documents to form a campaign committee and qualify with their party. That is the second round of voting.
At the third stage, major donors cast their votes. This is the point at which wealthy individuals, corporations, political action committees and the like make their choices from the field of candidates already winnowed by the previous stages of the process. In almost all elections, candidates who raise the most money – and raise it early – win the election. They get that money from a select group of major donors. You can see some of the major donors for President Obama and John McCain from the 2008 election by clicking on the links.
Then, in the fourth stage, those citizens who are registered voters enter the process. In elections for state and national offices they make their initial selections from among a slate of candidates in a party primary election.  That first round of voting narrows the field of candidates further, reducing the field to just one candidate per party for each office.
Finally, after these four rounds of selections are made, the electors go to the polls in the general election and cast a concluding vote. In many ways, Election Day isn’t a choice among candidates, pure and simple, but a ratification of decisions made by others long before the first campaign speech was delivered.

So, if you want to know which candidates have the best chance of success, just follow the professional political operatives and the money.