THE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATING SYSTEM
By Laura Maupin, formerly a social studies and student government
adviser at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in
This lesson may be used to introduce students to the system of primaries
and caucuses by which candidates for U.S. president are nominated by
their parties. It will take 1 - 2 class periods. It may be used in any
social studies class in which current events are discussed but it is
especially relevant in a U.S. government or civics course.
After completing this lesson, students will understand the process by
which candidates for U.S. president are nominated by the Democratic
and Republican parties. They will identify and understand differences
between primaries and caucuses and key terms and issues related to the
Time, Continuity, and
Power, Authority, and
Civic Ideals and Practices
1. Begin by giving your students some background on the nominating process
and primary season in the race for U.S. president. You may wish to refer
to or have your students read the following Online NewsHour article:
your students the HANDOUT and have
them complete it individually or in small groups. Students will need
government or civics textbooks and/or computers with Internet access
so that they may use the following online resources.
gained a basic understanding of the nomination process, you may now
have your students discuss, debate, and analyze the following issues.
You may wish to do this in small groups, as an entire class, or by having
your students select one issue and write about it.
Think about the process of nominating a party's candidate for president.
How has this process changed over the last 40 years? Why? What impact
have these changes had on nominating conventions? What do you think
of these changes?
Explain the impact of frontloading. What special importance does the
primary schedule give to states with earlier primaries? To candidates
who organize and fundraise early? What has happened to the effective
length of the primary season?
Compare the primaries and caucuses to the general election for president
in terms of participation. What percentage of the population votes
in primaries? How does this differ from the general election for president?
How else do those who vote in the primaries differ from the electorate
as a whole? Analyze the implications of these differences.
Have your students learn more about and even get involved in your state's
primary/caucus. What is the history of primaries and/or caucuses in
your state? How do the parties differ in the rules they set for the
primary or caucus in your state? How would an interested voter get more
involved in the process? What special role, if any, is your state's
primary or caucus likely to have in this year's presidential primary
season? Who do you expect to do well in your state and why? Students
may get more involved by working on the campaigns of particular candidates,
helping to inform voters by volunteering for nonpartisan organizations
such as The League of Women Voters, or by "poll watching"
on primary day.
NewsHour: Democratic Primaries
Guide to U.S. Government for Kids
VoteSmart: 2004 Presidential Candidates
Lara Maupin taught social studies at Thomas Jefferson High School for
Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia. She has a Masterís Degree
in Secondary Social Studies Education from George Washington University
and a Bachelorís Degree in Anthropology and Philosophy from Mount Holyoke
out more about opportunities to contribute to this site, contact Leah
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