US2016: What you need to know

US_Flag_BacklitA year from today, January 20th 2017, a new president will be publicly inaugurated as President of the United States. With 292 days until the election itself, here’s a look at the current state of the election and the key dates for the year ahead.

 WHO IS RUNNING FOR ELECTION?

At present, there are three main Democratic nominees and twelve Republican nominees. They are:

  • HILLARY CLINTON (DEM)
  • BERNIE SANDERS (DEM)
  • MARTIN O’MALLEY (DEM)
  • DONALD TRUMP (GOP)
  • TED CRUZ (GOP)
  • BEN CARSON (GOP)
  • JEB BUSH (GOP)
  • MARCO RUBIO (GOP)
  • CHRIS CHRISTIE (GOP)
  • CARLY FIORINA (GOP)
  • JIM GILMORE (GOP)
  • MIKE HUCKABEE (GOP)
  • RICK SANTORUM (GOP)
  • RAND PAUL (GOP)
  • JOHN KAISH (GOP)

The eventual presidential candidate for each party is determined by a series of caucuses and primaries, which are preliminary elections to select the candidates for the presidential election. The candidate with the most delegates after these elections wins the candidacy.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A CAUCUS AND A PRIMARY?

In a caucus, voters gather in local town halls on election night and openly make their vote. These occur in only a fifth of US states. The primaries in the other states are more typical of a normal election, where voters cast a ballot in a voting booth for the candidate of their choice.

WHO IS LEADING FOR EACH PARTY?

Nationwide polls have shown Hillary Clinton in the lead in the Democrat race by up to 17 points against Sanders and O’Malley, with Donald Trump the frontrunner for the Republicans, followed by Cruz and Rubio.

However, state polling have shown the race closing between Clinton and Sanders in some states, with Sanders leading in New Hampshire. The same is true in the Republican primaries, with Cruz and Carson leading or tying in some states.

WHAT IS SUPER TUESDAY?

‘Super Tuesday’ is the name given to the Tuesday of a presidential election year when the greatest number of states hold primary elections. Due to the large number of delegates up for grabs on Super Tuesday, candidates seeking the presidency must do well on this day to secure the party’s nomination.

This year, Super Tuesday is taking place on March 1st in the following states: Alabama, Alaska (GOP only), Arkansas, Colorado (caucuses), Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota (caucuses), Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE PRIMARIES?

The candidate for the Democrat and Republican parties will choose their running mate for the position of Vice President and are officially announced as their respective party’s candidate for the presidency at their respective National Convention.

This is how it normally works, but with several candidates vying for the Republican candidacy, the aftermath of the primaries and the Republican National Convention could play out differently.

After the two National Conventions comes months of campaigning and canvassing from both sides.

WHAT ARE THE KEY STATES IN THE ELECTION?

There are a number of ‘swing states’, the main ones being Iowa, Ohio, Virginia and Florida. Florida, in particular, has proved to be crucial in deciding the presidency in the past – particularly in 2000. North Carolina, Colorado and Pennsylvania have also been ‘swing states’ in the past. As a result, the candidates will often spend time campaigning to potential floating voters in these states.

HOW IS THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION DECIDED?

The United States uses a system called the Electoral College. Each state and the nation’s capital, Washington DC, is allocated a certain number of Electoral College votes, ranging from 3 for the smallest states to 55 for the most populous, California. Once voters across the country cast their votes, ballots are counted and the candidate with the most votes in each state wins all of their Electoral College votes (with the exception of Maine and Nebraska – they have a slightly different method). The presidential candidate with the most Electoral College votes wins and becomes the president-elect of the United States.

This has led in the past to the situation where the president-elect is not the candidate that won the popular vote. This happened most recently in 2000, when Al Gore beat George W Bush by almost 500,000 votes, but Bush became president.

WHO WILL WIN THE PRESIDENCY?

Nationwide polls suggest that Clinton may have the edge over the Republican candidates. However, Cruz and Rubio pose a threat to her chances of heading to the White House. Palin’s endorsement of Trump, which could potentially see her become his running mate, could also sway some voters if he were to become the Republican nominee. If, on the other hand, Sanders were to be chosen as the Democratic candidate, his chances are slightly better against some candidates than Clinton, but Carson and Rubio would cause him more difficulty.

WHAT ARE THE KEY DATES FOR THE US ELECTION?

  • February 1 – Iowa caucus (DEM & GOP)
  • February 9 – New Hampshire primaries (DEM & GOP)
  • March 1 – Super Tuesday
  • March 15 – Florida primaries (DEM & GOP)
  • June 14 – Last primary election in Washington DC (DEM)
  • July 18-21 – Republican National Convention
  • July 25-28 – Democratic National Convention
  • September 26 – First Presidential Debate
  • October 4 – Vice Presidential Debate
  • October 9 – Second Presidential Debate
  • October 19 – Third (and final) Presidential Debate
  • November 8 – Election Day
  • January 20 (2017) – Inauguration of new President and Vice President

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