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Primaries and Caucuses

3. Theory vs. Practice

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In this module, we look at the presidential nomination system in full, focusing in particular on: (i) the ‘Quiet Campaign’ up to six years before the primaries; (ii) the groundwork done by potential nominees by building name recognition, hiring campaign staff, securing funding, and building a strong grassroots base; (iii) the ‘Emergence of the Frontrunner’; (iv) how party elites, activists and staff winnow out the non-viable candidates.


In this course, Dr David Andersen (Durham University) explores the system of primaries and caucuses – also known as the presidential nomination process – in the United States. In the first module, we are introduced to the system of presidential elections and given some key historical context. In the second module, we explore primaries and caucuses, outlining with real-world examples the different forms of primary, as well as the history and relative importance of both primaries and caucuses. In the third module, we turn to the question of ‘Theory vs. Practice’ by interrogating the theory underpinning this process – from the ‘Quiet Campaign’ up to six years prior to the primaries, to the eventual choosing of a presidential candidate by party elites, party activists, and ordinary voters. In the fourth module, we explore and critique the unique influence held by two key states in this process: Iowa (IA) and New Hampshire (NH). In the fifth and final module, we draw this all together to think about the full map of the presidential nomination process in the US.


Dr. David Andersen is an expert on American politics and government whose research focuses primarily on political psychology and political behaviour. After receiving his PhD in 2011, he worked for two years at the Eagleton Institute of Politics before transferring to Iowa State University in 2013 as an Assistant Professor of American Government. He remained at Iowa State until 2019, when he moved across the pond to join Durham University as an Assistant Professor in United States Politics. His research has been published in a number of well-regarded academic journals, including the American Journal of Political Science, and he is particularly interested in the research question: "How do people learn about politics?"

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APA style

Andersen, D. (2021, December 13). Primaries and Caucuses - Theory vs. Practice [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Andersen, D. "Primaries and Caucuses – Theory vs. Practice." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 13 Dec 2021,

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