Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in Political Science

Degree Level



Political Science


Sebold, Karen

Committee Member/Reader

Dowdle, Andrew

Committee Member/Second Reader

Shelton, Gina

Committee Member/Third Reader

Warren, Ron


The topic of American presidential elections has remained central to political discussions since the founding fathers drafted the Constitution. Article Two, Section One of the Constitution lays out the guidelines for presidential elections, yet Article Two neglects to mention the process of how to nominate candidates for the presidential race. Lacking Constitutional guidance, early presidential nomination conventions of the parties in the 19th century and early 20th century did not reflect ideals of democracy. The delegates that voted at the conventions were selected by party insiders and their votes reflected the sentiments of the party bosses, disregarding the preferences of the general voters. Party bosses at the time were accused of bribing delegates to vote a certain way with the promise of power and money. (Reuters, 2016) Votes at this time were outright bought; money has always played a large part in presidential elections.

Presidential nomination reform started with President Theodore Roosevelt in 1912. Roosevelt previously held office twice, and he was seeking his third re-election. Roosevelt went on to win nine out of ten Republican primaries yet failed to secure the nomination. As previous nomination conventions went, the party bosses controlled the delegates’ votes and William Howard Taft secured the Republican nomination. Roosevelt’s shortcomings led to the formation of the Progressive Party, or the Bull Moose Party, which chose Roosevelt as their presidential candidate. Although Roosevelt did not win the presidency in 1912, Americans faced the corruption of presidential nominations and demanded reforms. The power was put in the hands of the voters, no longer the party bosses, as primaries were adopted in nearly every state. The primaries allowed for the voters to choose their delegate, and as a result, primaries became a more relevant and influential part of presidential elections. Candidates seeking party nomination now cater their campaigns to early primaries such as New Hampshire and South Carolina, as well as the Iowa Caucus, to ensure early success. Primary season will not be a triumph for all who enter the race seeking party nomination; some candidates will drop out of the race during this time if they are not successful. In the 2024 election cycle, candidates Vivek Ramaswamy and Ron DeSantis dropped out after their third and fourth-place finishes in Iowa. As primary season continues, voters will have a clearer indication of the candidate that has the potential to be chosen as a strong contender for President of the United States.

The procedure for selecting a nominee for the presidential election is both long and complex; political scientists and researchers work to identify significant trends and collect data throughout the nomination process. Many determinants play a role in the outcome of presidential party nominations throughout different stages of the election. Several factors contribute to this including campaign expenditures, cash reserves, polling results, momentum of a campaign, and endorsements given by party elites. Electoral activities in the pre-primary stage can play a more significant role than in later stages research has found. (Dowdle et al., 2016) Specifically regarding the pre-primary period, the activities include campaign fundraising, expenditures, elite support, polls, cash on hand, and early campaign organization.

When a candidate has high fundraising and organization, this is referred to as “frontloading” their campaign. Frontloading is a significant predictor of building momentum in the early stages of the campaign. Momentum plays a large role in setting the tone of the race and creating a horse race for early media coverage, yet it is difficult to measure momentum statistically. Fundraising, expenditures, elite endorsements, and polls are variables that can be measured quantitatively before the primaries begin. Political scientists argue these components may have a larger effect on outcomes than primary results. In the literature review, these components and their significance will be explored further. Given the importance and complexity of presidential nominations, this study aims to investigate the determinants that predict success in a presidential election.

My research will focus on the current election cycle, the 2024 Republican nomination contest. President Joe Biden is running for re-election; thus the Democrat nomination will be excluded from my research. As of March 6, 2024, all Republican candidates (with the exclusion of Donald Trump) had dropped out of the race. Nikki Haley decided to end her campaign after winning the singular state of Vermont on Super Tuesday, and she was the last candidate left in the race. The elimination of the other candidates leaves former President Donald Trump as the front-runner and only option for the Republican nomination. The circumstances surrounding the 2024 race for the Republican nomination are unprecedented, suggesting different factors could influence the outcome in ways not observed in previous nomination contests. The atypicality of this race raises the potential for variables that have been significant in the past to be insignificant, or vice versa.


American presidential elections, presidential nomination process, voting, politics