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Since the 1970s, the presidential nominees of both major parties have been decided in the primaries, not at the national conventions. Yet over the course of the late 20th century, each party followed a different path to settling their presidential nominations. Republicans tended to rally around the early front-runner. Democrats often picked a candidate who was back in the pack in the early going, sometimes way back in the cases of George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton. Beginning with 1972, the Democrats have had nine competitive nominating contests, only two of which were won by the front-runner in the Gallup Poll in the spring before election year. In the same period, Republicans have had seven competitive nominating contests, five of which were won by the early front-runner. (In other years, incumbent presidents without significant opposition ran successfully for nomination.) Yet since 2000, Republicans have begun to emulate the Democrats, at least to the extent of not reflexively choosing the early GOP favorite. The chart below traces the Democratic and Republican presidential front-runners in the Gallup Poll in the spring before the election year, and the standing of each party’s eventual nominee at the same time in cases where he (or she) was not the early front-runner.

Source: The Rhodes–Cook Letter, May 2015

Document Outline
Poll Front-Runners and Eventual Nominees

Poll Front-Runners and Eventual Nominees

Document Outline
Poll Front-Runners and Eventual Nominees

 
Document Citation
Cook, R. (2015). The norm: GOP often favors the early front-runner for president, democrats less so. Retrieved from http://library.cqpress.com/
Document ID: rcookltr-1527-97804-2707763
Document URL: http://library.cqpress.com/elections/rcookltr-1527-97804-2707763