Who Selects Candidates In The US? – OpEd


By Boris Volkhonsky

The U.S. presidential campaign which has been weird from the very start, is presenting new surprises almost daily. The most recent one was the exclusion of four out of six contenders for the Republican nomination from the primaries in Virginia.

Among the candidates who were left out are one of the obvious front-runners nationwide and the most probable winner in the state, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Virginia G.O.P. officials claim that Gingrich’s team has not presented the 10,000 signatures in his support needed for the registration. In fact, the team did present more than 11,000 signatures, but the commission found part of them invalid.

The peculiar thing about this is that Mr. Gingrich is a resident of Virginia, and has been resident for 10 years. He is registered to vote in the state, and according to latest polls, he has a comfortable lead over other candidates in Virginia.

Now, Gingrich and his team are exploring other options including a write-in campaign, when voters can put the name of an unregistered candidate into the ballot. The problem is that Virginia state laws do not allow write-ins.

Along with Newt Gingrich, three other contenders, including Texas Governor Rick Perry – failed to qualify for the Virginia ballot, thus leaving only two candidates – Mitt Romney and Ron Paul who will contest for the votes of the G.O.P. delegates on March 6.

Gingrich’s campaign director Michael Krull commented on the situation by saying: “Only a failed system excludes four out of the six major candidates seeking access to the ballot. Voters deserve the right to vote for any top contender, especially leading candidates.”

In fact, the particular Virginia case does not look like an isolated event and gives ground for much broader conclusions. The whole electoral system in the U.S. is based on the different rules existing in different states and it it’s the states that determine the rules. If, for example we extrapolate the rules existing in Virginia (which is by no means not the biggest state in the U.S.) and the requirement that 10,000 signatures are needed for the registration of a candidate, we will get 500,000 signatures needed nationwide. And it does not matter that the candidate in question is among the obvious front-runners in the Party that has a majority in the House.

The system is flawed, and this is what sounds true in the statements of Gingrich’s team. Such a system does not guarantee that a simple majority at the general elections would win the race, as happened in 2000. The other case, also dating back to 2000, shows that letting the states decide all formalities of the voting can lead to a situation that the national presidential race can be won by a little more than 500 votes in one state. And that figure is also doubtful, since the bulletins in Florida were drawn in such a way that quite a number of Democratic supporters might have mistakenly voted for a third party candidate.

So, the peculiarities of the race are continuing. The only obvious beneficiary of such a situation is the incumbent president Barack Obama. While his popularity is plunging, he still looks like the most probable winner in November 2012. And the split and total confusion in Republican ranks only plays his hand. The longer the situation of uncertainty is preserved, the easier it will be for Obama to defeat ANY of his G.O.P. contestants. Therefore, by excluding one possible front-runner, Virginia Republican officials in no way helped the other, i.e. Mitt Romney. They have spoiled the prospects of everyone, including Romney.


VOR, or the Voice of Russia, was the Russian government's international radio broadcasting service from 1993 until 2014, when it was reorganised as Radio Sputnik.

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