The long drive to decide the Democrat and Republican candidates for the next US president begins with the caucuses in the midwest state of Iowa. The state delegates chosen by Iowans will go on to national nominating conventions in the summer.
The presidential primary elections come to a head on certain key dates, notably a so-called “Super Tuesday” on the fifth of February, when a large number of states hold them.
Convincing wins in these primaries have often propelled the contestants to ultimately win their party’s nomination.
The fifteen candidates therefore strive to look their best in Iowa and New Hampshire on the east coast, where the country’s first caucus and primary elections are held.
The Democratic majors are New York Senator Hillary Clinton, keen to be the first female US president, Illinois Senator Barak Obama to be the first African American and former North Carolinia senator John Edwards.
The candidates debate, in more or less friendly fashion – the same goes for their television advertisements – they appear on talk shows… trawling for optimum voter support, often attacking their rivals.
The Republican frontrunners are former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee, a Baptist preacher, Former Governor of Massachusetts the Mormon Mitt Romney and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Up to the last minute, polls showed many Iowans in both parties were undecided about whom to back, or open to changing their minds.
The politicians’ campaign managers talked in terms of “a remarkable amount of fluidity in (the) race”.
From August 25-28, the Democratic National Convention will be held in Colorado.
The Republicans will hold theirs in Minnesota, from September 1-4.
The day the next president is finally chosen will be November 4.
Even though half a million fewer Americans cast a vote for the now outgoing president in 2000, he still managed to defeat his adversary… because of what some critics call the ‘quirks’ of the system.
Constitutionally, the ultimate decision comes down to United States Electoral College electors.