Parties and Platforms

Campaigns and Nominations

When was the primary introduced?

The primary was introduced in 1904, when Florida became the first state to adopt the primary as a way of choosing delegates to nominating conventions. By 1912, fifteen states provided some type of primary election, and that year was also the first in which a candidate sought to use primaries as a way to obtain the presidential nomination (former president Theodore Roosevelt challenged incumbent William Howard Taft; Roosevelt won nine primaries to Taft’s one, but lost the nomination). By 1916, twenty state Democratic and Republican parties selected their delegates in primaries. The introduction of the primary is significant to election history because it expanded democratization of the nominating process by enabling party members to choose delegates. However, in its infancy stage, the primary failed to attract many voters, and some states even abandoned it. It didn’t fully recapture the electorate’s attention until 1969, when the Democratic National Committee formed the McGovern-Fraser Commission to reform and revive the delegate selection process.


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