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The Road to the 2012 Nomination: The Republican Race for the Presidency

The race to become President of the United States is not a sprint but a marathon that begins months before the general election. The democratic incumbent, President Obama, is all but guaranteed a place on the ticket as the Democratic candidate. Who will occupy the Republican side of the ballot? Right now, the answer is far from decided. 

010912-1 After months of declarations, speeches, tours, and debates, the 2012 election process formally began on January 3, 2012 when Iowa residents cast votes in their state caucus. This coming Tuesday, January 10, New Hampshire voters cast their primary ballots. This stage of the nomination process lasts until June 26 as each state holds a primary or caucus to allot delegates to each candidate. There are 2,286 Republican delegates. A candidate must have 1,144 to win the nomination and be the Republican candidate for President in the general election on November 7.  

How are party nominees selected? What is the difference between a caucus and a primary? How does each work? Who are the Republican candidates? What are their opinions on key issues? What were the results of last week’s Iowa caucus? What is the primary schedule?

Understanding the political process and the differences between candidates is important if you are to understand the policy choices facing us and our future, and if you are to make intelligent election decisions in that future. So this week you will roll up your sleeves and dig into the American primary process and the 2012 Republican field of candidates.

The Nomination Process

010912-2 The road to the White House features several hurdles. Hopeful candidates must collect a qualifying number of delegates in order to win their party’s nomination and appear as its candidate in the general election. Delegates are won during state primary elections and state causes. It may help to have an explanation of what primaries and causes are, how they differ, and how they each work,

Election 2012, an interactive created by the Associated Press, helps you understand the political process. Begin with the Road to Nomination tab. Click to play the introduction. Then, click each of the four grey statement bars under the video feature. Each will explain part of the nomination process. After viewing, record the questions you have about the process, primaries, and causes. Share your questions with peers and use them as a springboard for a discussion about the political process.

As the AP video explained, early contests are important because they often force candidates with weak showings and shallow pockets out of the race. On the other hand, a strong showing can offer lesser known candidates a surge in media coverage and fundraising. Hop over to 2012 Election Central to view a complete primary schedule. Which states have upcoming elections? Which dates feature multiple contests?  

010912-3 As the first state on the election calendar, much is made of the Iowa results. Analysts and pundits try to divine some meaning and predict presidential futures based on the Iowa outcomes. Return to the AP site and click on the Iowa Impacttab to examine three a bar graph of last week’s results, pie charts of entrance poll answers, and a visual graphic of Iowa’s prior election results. How many delegates does Iowa award? Voters who hope to defeat Obama were most likely to vote for whom? Who garnered the most support from Iowa voters who decided in advance of the caucus? Which candidate did well among voters who decided in the final days prior to the caucus? Why might when a voter decided be important? What do the Iowa results reveal about the Republican nominee or the winner of the general election?

And Then There were Six

Can you name any of the 2012 Republican candidates for President? The field of candidates originally was eight men and one woman. Six men remain.  Familiarize yourself with the field of candidates by opening the GOP Field tab. Click on each candidate to read a short biography and to learn more about their political strengths and weaknesses. For a slightly deeper peek into each candidate’s positions, open the On the Issues tab. Highlight a candidate then scroll over the issues to read his opinion. What questions do you have for each candidate? Create a class chart of questions for each candidate. For which candidate would you most likely vote? Conduct a caucus in your class; stand in groups to represent which candidate you support. Conduct an informal exit poll: which issues weigh the most in your decision and why does a particular candidate’s position resonate with you? Do certain candidates attract “voters” who care more about a particular issue? Which candidate would win your class’ delegates? 

010912-4 Debates are a regular feature of the political nomination process and another way for voters to become more familiar with the candidates’ views. The last debate was this past Saturday, January 7 in New Hampshire. However, if you missed it, do not despair. There are many more to come. View the full schedule of upcoming Republican Primary debates at 2012 Election Central. (Later, there will be debates between the Republican nominee and President Obama.)

Following Iowa’s caucus, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney share the most delegates. Learn more about each man’s personal and political life at the In the News tab on the AP’s site. Begin by using the double left arrows to scroll to the beginning, birth. Then use the advance arrows to read, view, and listen to highlights. Record your impressions, questions, and reactions.