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Monday, January 9, 2012

January Primaries


Now that the Iowa Caucus is over, we're on to the presidential primaries! In January, there will be 3 major primaries:
  • January 10 - New Hampshire
  • January 21 - South Carolina
  • January 31 - Florida
These are Republican primaries, important because several presidential candidates are competing for their party's nomination. (Unlike Democratic primaries, where Barack Obama faces no opposition.)

What's a primary?

A primary is the process a political party uses to select its nominee. Primary elections are held, where registered voters select their favorite choices for each office. Some states have a special primary where only the presidential race is on the ballot, and then have a later primary for local and state offices. Other states, such as North Carolina, have one primary election for national, state and local offices.

In a primary election, voters go to voting sites (also called precincts or polling places). These sites are determined by government offices that manage the elections process. (In North Carolina this office is called the Board of Elections.)

The purpose of the primary is not to elect the person who will take office. Instead, voters decide which candidate will represent a political party. That person will run against the opposing political party's candidate in the general election. This year's general election is Tuesday, November 6.

After the voters make their decisions, the votes are counted and reported to the public. Many people work together to make sure that elections are fair and legal.

In a national election, different candidates may win in different states.  This process is a little different than it is for a local or state office. For the national presidential election, each state holds a primary. After the primary, a state political party chooses its delegates, or party representatives, for the national political convention. In some states, the winner of the primary wins all of the delegates. In others, the representatives are assigned based on the percentage of votes a candidate won.

The Republican presidential convention will be held in Tampa, Florida in August 2012. The Democratic National Convention will be held here - in Charlotte, North Carolina! - in September 2012. We'll learn more about the convention throughout the year.

Why do states want to have the first primaries?

The earlier primaries often receive a lot of national attention because they are the first chance to see which candidates have widespread support, and which do not. If a candidate can show solid support in the early primaries, this helps with fundraising, endorsements and gaining voters in other states.

Learning opportunity

Read about and watch the news coverage of the January primaries. Some things to watch, think and talk about:

  • Which candidates are campaigning in NH, SC and Florida? Why might a candidate decide to spend more, or less, time in one state vs another?
  • How much money have the candidates spent to campaign? Does the amount of money relate to the candidate's popularity? What does a candidate need money to do?
  • What are the benefits of having an early primary? What are the disadvantages? Are the advantages and disadvantages different for different groups of people - for example, for the candidates? the voters? the media? the states where primaries are held?
  • Why is the New Hampshire primary the first in the country?
  • Which issues are important to NH, SC and Florida voters? Are they the same issues that are important to voters in NC and other parts of the country? Why or why not?
  • Who are the candidates in each election? Where do they stand on issues that matter to you?
  • In your opinion, which candidate will win/lose the January primaries? Why?
  • What kinds of impacts do the elections have on the local and state governments? For example, if the candidates and media spend several weeks or months in New Hampshire or South Carolina, do they spend money in cities and towns? Do they buy campaign ads? Do they employ local residents?
  • If you were creating an ad about one of the candidates, what would it say? Which qualities or positions do you think are most important to emphasize?
  • If you were a candidate's campaign advisor, what advice would you give him/her about speaking to voters? What kinds of skills and attitudes do the candidates need to have to be persuasive, confident, a good communicator, etc.?
  • How does the media cover the candidates and the primaries? Does each media organization report the same story the same way? Why or why not? 
  • If you were a voting in this election, how would you prepare to vote?
  • Predict the headlines immediately before, and after, each primary. Follow the media coverage...were you right?
  • Does the foreign press cover this story? How is the perspective the same, or different?
  • How many times in prior elections has the winner of the January primaries been the candidate who the party nominated at the national convention? Won the presidential election?

Learn more

Presidential Primary Calendar

State of New Hampshire
New Hampshire Republican Party
State of South Carolina

South Carolina Republican Party
State of Florida
Florida Republican Party
FOX News
New York Times
Wall Street Journal

Current Presidential Primary Candidates (GOP)
Newt Gingrich
Ron Paul
Mitt Romney
Rick Santorum

Social media - Election 2012 on Storify