The Primary Problem

source: graphic by Kayla Morton

Written by Johnathon Goodenow. Media by Kayla Morton.

Primary results are rolling in as the Republican and Democratic parties continue choosing a candidate to run for the presidency in the November election. The process that allows the public to have a say in which candidates run for office is similar for both parties. However, the way the parties use these systems is vastly different.

Donald Trump

Since this is the first election that I will be able to vote in, I have taken more interest in the primary candidates. My family has always leaned towards the Republican side of the political spectrum, so naturally I have as well.

Many were taken off guard by the sheer number of notable candidates who put their hats into the ring for the Republican nomination. Well-known governors, legislators and entrepreneurs came out of the woodwork and offered their ideas as to how the country could move forward. There were so many that not all of them were known to the public.

The primary system could not serve as intended for the majority of the primary cycle because the number of candidates was too large. Donald Trump is notable because his candor differs from the other candidates. Since the media is focused on him, the average guy off the street probably couldn’t tell you what the other Republican candidates’ positions are on major issues.

The candidates that aren’t receiving as much publicity attack their competitors to gain momentum in the polls. They do this to lower their opponents numbers rather than come up with unique ways to raise their own.

Ted Cruz headshot

Herein lies the main issue: overcrowded fields destroy themselves before the main election campaign begins. Candidates that are not in the lead fight over who gets to be the “Trump alternative.” Since Ted Cruz is currently second in the running, he has taken opposition from other candidates during the last several debates. A candidate whose character is damaged in the eyes of the public will have difficulty winning a general election.

Cruz’s gains over the rest of the field on Super Tuesday were considerable. The nomination of any candidate other than Trump now depends on whether the other candidates choose to drop out and endorse Cruz as he suggested in a recent speech.

At the end of the primary, the delegates that were originally associated with these candidates could cast their votes for Cruz instead. This would be an arduous move for the Republican party candidates since they have spent their time, money and reputation trying to gain the nomination. The size of the field could make candidates feel more invested in themselves than in the country they are trying to lead.

Hillary Clinton Headshot

Many would say that Hillary Clinton benefits from the relative quiet coming from the democratic primaries. The democratic primaries were referred by some as a “coronation” near the beginning of the primary campaign when Bernie Sanders had a smaller following. Because of the lack of candidates from the democratic primary, these candidates don’t have to deal with as many attacks on their policies or characters. This is because people aren’t attacking them from their own party.

Republican candidates aren’t going to change Democratic voters’ minds about which candidate should be their nominee.

In an ideal world, primaries would have a variety of candidates to choose from, and politicians would have enough sense to know which candidates are occupying a similar space and clear the field earlier. Because Cruz’s chance at winning the primaries is coming so late in the campaign, he hasn’t had as much room to make the impact that he might have made otherwise.


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