The average voter spends election season paying attention to the candidates instead of patterns in the elections themselves. That’s a good thing, since it means people know about their options, but it does mean that some of the secret facts about the elections can come as a surprise.
It Never Ends
People talk about election season as though it’s something that starts, runs for a little while, and then ends for a few years. In practice, election teams never stop working. Even the teams that aren’t actively campaigning for votes spend their time raising money and preparing for the next campaign. Modern campaigns are huge, complex efforts, so no team that wants to win can afford to take time off between the elections.
Those ongoing efforts need huge campaign teams. Modern candidates rely on hundreds of workers in their campaign staff, led by an experienced campaign manager. That manager helps to guide the campaign’s general strategy can delegate tasks to a number of subordinate managers in a structure that resembles that of large corporations. Those subordinate managers handle everything from funding the campaign to writing speeches and organizing the candidate’s schedule. They manage huge teams of professional workers of all types, but they also rely on work from a variety of volunteers. Generally, the people who run the campaign and provide specialized skills are paid professionals, while the people who handle basic work on the ground are dedicated volunteers.
Outsiders Are Getting Popular
Conventional wisdom says that voters want candidates with plenty of experience, but that has been changing in recent years. More and more people are prioritizing fresh ideas that can change the government over experience within the system. That cultural shift has helped to widen the pool of candidates in the early stages of elections, and it’s likely to continue until a major political event happens that could cause people to reassess their priorities once more.
Endorsements Are The Best Prediction
Political campaigns are full of endorsements. Candidates endorse each other when they lose, celebrities endorse their favorites, and sometimes even business leaders endorse candidates. It’s easy to write all of those endorsements off as political background noise, but they’re more important than people think. Endorsements have been the most accurate tool for predicting who gets a party’s nomination since 1980. Not all endorsements are created equal for the process. Endorsements from within the party matter much more than any others, and endorsements from figures outside the political world mean much less. They can help win the general election, but they don’t have much of an impact on who gets the nomination in the first place.
Fact Checking Is Political
Fact checking is an important part of any debate. Even in a world where nobody was willing to lie, people can make mistakes, and it’s important for the public to identify them before they vote. Many news outlets have started offering fact checks in recent years, but the fact checkers can also make mistakes or show political bias. They’re a useful tool, but people who want the whole truth still need to compare multiple fact checkers and check their sources to make sure everything is right.
Primaries Are Private
Party primaries may seem like a fundamental part of the election process, but in most states they’re completely private. The government doesn’t require primaries as a method for picking candidates, and people can run for office without ever taking part in one. They exist so that the parties can make sure their voters support their own candidate, but they’re optional, and parties could choose their candidate through any other method if they wanted to do so.
Different Times, Different Talks
Primaries and the general election call for different types of rhetoric. “People within a party tend to have similar beliefs, so candidates that want to stand out have to emphasize and exaggerate narrow parts of their platform,” said Last Men and OverMen. That can make them seem too extreme to voters outside the party, so candidates in the general election need to take a more moderate stance without going so far as to antagonize their own party. It’s a delicate balance, and it explains why some politicians seem to contradict themselves over the course of the election.