Charlotte Talks Politics: From Party Bosses To Caucuses - How Primaries Pick Nominees

Feb 3, 2020

Monday, Feb. 3, 2020

America didn't always use primaries and caucuses to select its presidential nominees. Two experts on the process of choosing party standard-bearers explain its history and what to look for as voting starts in the 2020 election.

And they're off!

The gates swing open Monday on the 2020 election with the Iowa caucuses. Before long, the Democratic presidential race will be barreling through our neck of the woods with South Carolina's "first in the South" primary, and North Carolina having the third-most delegates up for grabs on Super Tuesday. By that point, more than a third of the delegates that decide the nominee will have been claimed.

While presidential elections have been held for centuries in America, presidential primaries are a relatively modern invention. How did they come about? And why does the race to the White House always start in Iowa?

A supporter of then-candidate Barack Obama at a 2008 caucus in Idaho.
Credit Flickr / Brent


Elaine Kamarck, author of "Primary Politics: Everything You Need to Know About How American Nominates Its Presidential Candidates;" senior fellow at the Brookings Institution (@EKamarck)

Josh Putnam, Wilimington-based political scientist, runs the Frontloading HQ blog about presidential primaries and caucuses (@FHQ)