Current Events: Invisible Primary


primary_election_voteThe invisible primary is the period between when a candidate announces their bid for public office and when the actual primaries take place. It’s also sometimes called the “money primary” since candidates spend most of their time during this period raising money in an effort to show political strength. During this period the first well-known presidential candidates with strong political support networks show interest in running for president and demonstration of substantial public support by voters for them in primaries and caucuses.

latest-poll-results-08.04.16During the money primary candidates raise funds for the upcoming primary elections and attempt to garner support of political leaders and donors, the party establishment. Fund raising numbers and opinion polls are used by the media to predict who the front runners for the nomination are. It is a crucial stage of a campaign for the presidency, as the initial front runners who raise the most money appear the strongest and will be able to raise even more money. On the other hand, members of the party establishment who find themselves losing the invisible primary, may abandon hope of successfully running. There is little or no campaign advertising using television, particularly by the candidate, during this period, although online advertising may be used to build mailing lists of grassroots supporters and small contributors.

early look at 2016 raceIn contrast to the smoke-filled room where a small group of party leaders might at the last minute determine the candidate, the invisible primary refers to the period of jockeying which precedes the first primaries and caucuses. The winners of the invisible primary come into the first primaries and caucuses with a full war chest of money, support from office holders, and an aura of inevitability. Winners of the invisible primary have the support of the leaders of their political party and, in turn, support the political positions of their party.


Democrats Donkey Logo-1In the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton has a host of endorsements by party elites and activists, a growing fundraising operation, and a strong lead in presidential opinion polls. As a result, some would-be candidates are staying out of the race, leaving Clinton to run virtually unopposed. That makes the front-runner’s path to the nomination much easier. In nomination campaigns like this, a rival or two may emerge, but caucuses and primary voters generally support the candidate backed by party elites and group leaders. The main question is whether the front-runner will stumble enough to blow the nomination.

GOP Elephant Logo-1The 2016 Republican race shows some serious competition with a lot of candidates, but none with a majority of support in opinion polls. As a result, there is little to deter even more politicians from entering the race. With a number of potentially appealing candidates in the race, Republican insiders are undecided and divided about who they will support. Most Republican elites are standing on the sidelines, waiting to see who catches fire before endorsing a candidate. As a result, rank-and-file Republicans lack clear signals about who to support. Such nomination campaigns tend to remain competitive at least through the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, when party activists and a broader population of party identifiers begin to settle the matter. These nominations tend to hinge more on campaign momentum gained or lost during the primaries.

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