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History of United States Presidential Election

Updated December 27, 2021
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The first case will focus on Howard Dean. Dean was the governor of Vermont before attempting to win the Democratic party nomination in the 2004 Presidential election. During Howard Dean’s campaign “many scholars found Dean’s ultimate failure predictable…due to his issue of electability” (Hindman 2005, 121-128). This shows that many did not expect Dean to succeed and win the Democratic nomination. However, he ended up emerging “as a frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in 2004” (Hindman 2005, 121-128).

So, if he was not expected to win or even be in the lead, how did he emerge as a front-runner? It has to do with his campaign and how it was run. He took full advantage of the internet in a time when the internet wasn’t largely popular. “Dean’s team is credited with starting the first presidential campaign weblog, pioneering Internet-organized meet-ups of supporters, and utilizing the Web to raise almost $8 million dollars in the second quarter of 2003” (Haynes and Pitts 2009, 53-58). He launched an “online campaign”, which “generated a spiral of positive press coverage” (Hindman 2005, 121-128). He used the internet for fundraising as well, again this is in a time when the internet was not as popular as it is today.

“By the end of January of 2004, as the primaries commenced, Dan had raised more than $41 million, much of it online; 318,884 citizens had contributed to the Dean campaign. (Hindman 2005, 121-128). “By early 2004, and entering the Iowa caucuses, Dean had a network of enthusiastic supporters, the most amount of funds raised and the most amount of cash on hand among the Democratic field” (Christenson, Smidt, and Panagopoulos 2014, 108-122). As most people know, raising money for the campaign is a key to being elected. If the candidate has the funds to run a successful campaign, it helps tremendously. Money is needed to finance signs, billboards, television advertisements, etc.

The more people know the candidates name and what they stand for, the more it helps the candidate. So, his success in online fundraising was a help to Dean. Without the internet, Dean would not have raised nearly as much money as he did.” A completely offline Dean campaign, then, would still have had important strengths. But one thing it would not have done is raise more than a fraction of the $52 million that Dean ultimately received” (Hindman 2005, 121-128). However, even with all of his successes, Dean still did not get the Democratic nomination, which was forecasted by political scientists when he started. They felt he just was not “electable”. He had a few problems as he ran his campaign, one example is that he “flip-flopped” on issues more than his opponents.

“When people act as ‘serial flip-floppers,’ their credibility is severely damaged. Dean was accused of flip-flopping on policies toward North Korea, the retirement age, public financing and campaign spending, regime change in Iraq, trade with Cuba, the death penalty, the Bush tax cuts, and more” (Ruane and Cerulo 2008, 852-860). As the article says, “even the best-funded campaigns are not assured of victory” (Hindman 2005, 121-128). And, just because he was a governor did not ensure that he would win. He had the experience that would assist in his role as president, but that didn’t guarantee him a win. But, he was remembered after his campaign,

“Internet fundraising is not the only Dean legacy. Dean used the Web (and specific sites like Meetup.com) to build a minor candidacy into a national movement. The geographic reach of the campaign, the size of its volunteer corps, and its ability to recruit previously inactive citizens were all a result of Dean’s Internet strategy” (Hindman 2005, 121-128).

While Dean had plenty of experience as a Governor, he did not have any experience as a business executive. This could have hindered his run for President.

The second case will focus on Jimmy Carter, who ran for the Democratic nomination, he secured that and then later went on to win the presidency. Jimmy Carter was Governor of Georgia from 1971-1975 (Jimmy Carter). A large portion of the success of President Jimmy Carter was that he had a proven track record in Georgia as governor. This shows that he was able to run a state, which is very similar to running a country. President Jimmy Carter ran for the Democratic nomination in the 1976 Presidential campaign. Carter managed to secure the Democratic nomination and later went to win the 1976 Presidential election. However, when President Carter ran for re-election in 1980, he lost to President Ronald Reagan.

It feels important to note that President Reagan was also a former Governor. Carter was running against a President up for re-election in the 1976 Presidential election. President Gerald Ford was running for re-election in 1976 when former Governor Jimmy Carter ran against him as the Democratic candidate. Most of the time an incumbent President usually wins re-election. ‘Reedy (1970) points out that the tradition of a ‘two-term presidency’ is deeply ingrained in the American electorate” (Stovall 1984, 621-631). During the 1976 Presidential campaign, numerous articles were written about Carter and his experience. One article stated, “Given the limitations of his office and the ‘mess’ he inherited from his predecessor, Lester Maddox, Governor Carter performed more than creditably” (Carter 1976, 501-507).

There were many aspects of Carter’s term as Georgia’s Governor mentioned during his campaign in 1976. Another mentioned, “In as much as the fostering of economic development and new job opportunities has to be a major concern of any Georgia governor, Carter and his administration showed surprising dedication to environmental protection and the preservation of important coastal and inland natural areas” (Carter 1976, 501-507). Carter’s experience as a governor before seeking the Democratic nomination in the 1976 Presidential election could have been the reason that he was able to defeat an incumbent President so easily. Especially on his first attempt at running for President. Most candidates that run for party nominations are virtually unknown. Mostly only those who were previously involved in politics (such as a Governor) are known by voters. Those such as Governors, are usually mentioned a little more since they have reputations of experience.

​However, when Carter ran for re-election, that experience was not enough to keep him in office. He may have been elected on his experience as a Governor, but his experience as a President just was not enough to keep him in office for a second term. Perhaps Reagan’s experience as a Governor is what helped him to beat out an incumbent President (Carter), just like Carter did with President Ford. However, Jimmy Carter did not have experience as a business executive, this could possibly have been the reason he was not re-elected. Voters may have felt that he was not running the country efficiently.

​The third case will focus on Mike Huckabee, who ran for the Republican nomination but failed. Mike Huckabee was Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas from 1993-1996 and then was Governor of Arkansas from 1996-2007. With Huckabee being Lt. Governor and then Governor of Arkansas for so many years, this gave him a large amount of experience to use in his bid for the Republican nomination in the 2008 and 2016 Presidential elections. Mike Huckabee is similar to Bill Clinton, both were born in Arkansas and both were formerly Governors of Arkansas. But, that is where the similarities end. While Clinton is a Democrat, Huckabee is a Republican. Huckabee has plenty of experience as a leader and executive. He did many good things for Arkansas.

This was helpful for Huckabee, however, he just never seemed to get himself in the lead, in either election. He was, however, popular online, especially in the “blog world” blogs, are becoming very popular among the younger crowds. “The time periods November 26 and ending December 26, 2007 (a period prior to the first contest), and from January 1 to 5, 2008 (the time period surrounding the Iowa caucuses) …while Huckabee and Romney led for the Republicans during this time period” (Haynes and Pitts 2009, 53-58). YouTube was also a slight help for Huckabee, “YouTube also did less well on the Republican side, but they did generate strong numbers for Huckabee and Romney, both competitive candidates” (Haynes and Pitts 2009, 53-58). Huckabee, with his experience as a Governor, was a serious contender for a while.

“Despite his limited supply of money, Huckabee was personally appealing and had a superior organization on the ground. He bested Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas and other ultraconservatives in the invisible primary and won the Iowa caucuses to earn his way into the early primaries, where he outlasted Fred Thompson. But by the time Romney was eliminated after Super

Tuesday, it was too late for Huckabee to threaten McCain seriously” (Paulson 2009, 312-330).

Huckabee gave it his all in the two Presidential elections that he attempted to gain the Republican nomination, but even with his experience, he just couldn’t pull it off.

“Huckabee adopted the classic strategy used by Jimmy Carter in 1976. He built a strong base of support among Iowa’s large evangelical community and won the state in a divided field. However, the compressed calendar gave him no time to capitalize on his victory to gather money and support in other states. Carter had weeks to prepare for New Hampshire; Huckabee had five days. He counted on momentum but did not have the time or the resources to build up a head of steam” (Butler 2009, 331-344).

He just could not seem to build up enough momentum. “Huckabee, however, can be considered a victor of sorts to his transcending from his position as a lesser-known candidate to becoming a nationally recognized candidate, partly due to caucus win in Iowa” (Sebold et al. 2012, 688-693). Huckabee, however, did not have experience as a business executive.

The fourth case will be focused on Herman Cain. Herman Cain was CEO of Godfather’s Pizza. Cain ran for the Republican nomination in the 2012 election. Herman Cain looked to be running a good race for the Republican nomination in the 2012 election, “in a Fox News Poll from October 23-25 (2011), Herman Cain’s 24% led all candidates for the GOP nomination” (Peterson and Vonnahme 2014, 372-378). “Herman Cain is a businessman and a Tea Party leader… As a businessman, Cain is a success story. He served as vice president of Pillsbury Company and was the chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City” (Davidson 2012, 48-64). He had experience as a CEO, which gives him experience running a large corporation. As mentioned before, running a large corporation is similar to running a country. So, he had this sort of experience. This shows that Cain possibly stood a good chance at being nominated. But, that all changed when accusations of affairs started flying and he suspended his campaign.

“On October 30, 2011, Politico reported that two women accused Cain of sexual harassment and misconduct. Two additional women came forward to accuse Vain of sexual harassment. In late November, a fifth woman alleged that she had a thirteen-year affair with Cain. Although Cain denied the allegations and the affair, he suspended his campaign on December 3 as a result of these “character assassinations” (Peterson and Vonnahme 2014, 372-378).

This ended a possibly promising run for Herman Cain. While he had plenty of experience as a business executive, he did not have any experience as a governor.

​The fifth case will focus on Mitt Romney. Romney co-founded Bain Capital and he was Goveror of Massachussetts. He ran for the Republican nomination in the 2008 Presidential election. Romney also ran for the Republican nomination in the 2012 Presidential election, which he secured. With Mitt Romney co-founding a major company which he helped to run, shows that he too has experience as a leader. He was already equipped to run a large company, which gave him an advantage in the experience department. As a Governor, this gave him a double dose of experience. In the 2008 Presidential election, Romney was able to establish himself as a front-runner early on, along with John McCain.

Romney and McCain were fierce competitors throughout the campaign for the Republican nomination. Romney was able to raise a substantial amount of funds before McCain edged him out of the race. Could this have been due to his executive experience? He ran a major company (that comes with the responsibility for making and handling money), maybe that experience was what helped him to raise so much money for his campaign. But, “Romney’s advantage was his self- worth; he personally contributed almost $50 million to his own campaign (Center for Responsive Politics 2008)” (Sebold et al. 2012, 688-693). Despite all of his possible experience, Romney still couldn’t secure the Republican nomination in the 2008 election.

Why? He had experience as a leader and executive. Possibly because of his religion, voters felt that they couldn’t vote for him. Romney was a Mormon and Mormonism isn’t exactly a popular religion. “Mitt Romney faced criticism of his faith while running for the 2008 Republican nomination (Weisberg 2006; Linker 2006; Feldman 2008) … for Romney it was his Mormonism” (Campbell, Green, and Monson 2012, 277-299). But, in the 2012 Presidential election, something changed. He may not have been able to clinch the Republican nomination in 2008, but he was able to secure it in 2012. What changed? Perhaps voters looked at Romney’s past experience as a leader. This could have helped him in his bid for President.

​The sixth case will focus on Donald Trump who ran for the Republican nomination for the 2016 Presidential election. Trump won the nomination and eventually went on the win the Presidency in the 2016 election. First, it must be mentioned that when talking about the campaign and election of Donald Trump in 2016, most polls during the entire election process showed that Trump was behind. When reading about the campaign, most everyone and every news report forecasted Trump to lose. Most people said that Trump would not win. But now, people are questioning how he won.

“Nearly 63 million Americans voted for Donald J. Trump in the 2016 United States presidential election. His victory defied expert opinion and shocked the world. How could a man widely dismissed as a carnival barker and a narcissist, with no political or military experience whatsoever, capture the most powerful political office on the planet?” (McAdams 2017, 1-13).

Trump had no political experience, this is true, but he did have experience as the CEO of a major company. As mentioned before, there are some similarities between the two. Maybe, voters connected the two jobs and saw the similarities and maybe voters saw this experience as enough to qualify him to become the next President of the United States. Women who voted for President Trump were questioned about why they voted for him, “…The respondents did point to certain recognizable issues (e.g., Second Amendment rights, Mr. Trump’s business acumen) …” (McAdams 2017, 1-13). This statement shows that some voters were, in fact, thinking about President Trump’s experience and successes as a business CEO. “Trump has always been a pragmatic dealmaker, willing to form expedient working relationships with former opponents and enemies, which resemble the short-term, opportunistic collaborations described by de Waal (2007)” (McAdams 2017, 1-13). Maybe some of this is what voters saw when deciding to vote for President Trump.

Some people think that Trump’s business experience is not what helped him to get the Republican nomination, but instead, they say that “Trump’s success in becoming the Republican candidate was achieved by dominating the agenda of mainstream media via his use of Twitter” (Schroeder 2018, 60-81). But, it is very likely that his business experience is what gave him an edge. Trump ran a very large and successful corporation like it was mentioned before, running some companies is very similar to running small countries. Although Trump’s company is not that large, it would still have given him plenty of leadership and executive experience. He was successful, but he did not have experience as a governor. So, it is possible that voters would prefer a candidate that has no political ties coming into the White House.

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History of United States Presidential Election. (2021, Dec 27). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/history-of-united-states-presidential-election/

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