University of Virginia professor James Ceaser says the four national institutions the Framers created were Congress, the Supreme Court, the presidency and the presidential selection system based on the electoral college. The fourth, wherein the selection of candidates and election of a president by each state’s electors occurred simultaneously — they were the same deliberation — soon disappeared.
Since the emergence of the party system in the 1790s, and the ratification of the 12th Amendment in 1804, candidates have been selected by several different processes. First by their party’s congressional caucuses; then by nominating conventions controlled by the party’s organizations; then by conventions influenced by primaries and caucuses (Vice President Hubert Humphrey won the 1968 Democratic nomination without entering any primaries); and, since 1972, entirely by primaries and caucuses that have made conventions nullities.
Will notes that because the protracted
2012 nomination process
may have hurt Romney, RNC
is proposing to shorten it
The party, however, must balance two imperatives. One is the need to enlarge the number of voters participating in the process. Hence the suggestion that primaries should replace all nominating caucuses and conventions — events where ideologically motivated activists and insurgent candidates can more easily predominate.
The party’s second imperative is to preserve opportunities for less-known and financially challenged candidates to break through. This is where government restrictions on campaign contributions restrict the range of candidates from which voters can choose.