For a better experience, click the Compatibility Mode icon above to turn off Compatibility Mode, which is only for viewing older websites.

Five Key Stages to Watch in the 2012 Presidential Election

February 8, 2012

With the 2012 Presidential race heating up, Drexel professor of political science Dr. William Rosenberg explains how five key stages of the election cycle will decide who takes control of the Oval Office.

Drexel professor William Rosenberg

1. Major Primaries and Caucuses

During the primaries, the candidates and their surrogates will use each primary to make their case for why their party’s nominee should be elected President in 2012. This period may be the scene of the most significance in terms of delegates to the national conventions. If one of the Republican candidates is able to win large numbers in the major primaries and caucuses, it could probably effectively seal his nomination. If the delegates are distributed more broadly, this may lead to a brokered convention where the nominee will emerge at the Republican Convention after much negotiation. Since President Barack Obama is running unopposed, the process is simply an accumulating of delegates for the Democrats who will come to their convention in Charlotte, N.C.

2. Political Party Conventions

This is the time when both parties get to showcase their nominees and launch their fall campaigns. Both parties will probably get a positive bump for their candidates just after each of their conventions. The Republican Convention may be a scene of a battle unless the standard bearer is clear. A brokered convention may ensue otherwise. On the Democratic side, there is little trouble likely to occur. It should be “No Drama Obama” there.

3. Fall Campaign and the Debates

At the post-convention phase, the candidates will clearly know who they are competing with. The campaigns will be active crisscrossing the country trying to secure votes. Swings states such as Pennsylvania are likely to be the scene of many visits.

Unlike the primary season, with a multitude of debates among the Republicans, in the fall campaign there will be possibly only four presidential and vice presidential debates. It will be an opportunity for voters to decide how the candidates match up side by side.

Money and ads are likely to be very important. There will probably be an onslaught of negative campaign ads coming from both the campaigns, and even more so from their respective Political Action Committees (PACs).

4. Election Day

Both parties prior to and on Election Day will be heavily involved in get-out-the-vote (GOTV) campaigns to bring their voters to the election polls. The campaign that is most successful in organizing their efforts will have the upper hand in the election.

For many, the main question in terms of their vote will be the economy. If it’s improving at election time, President Obama will have the advantage. If it is the same or getting worse, the advantage will go to the Republican candidate. At this point, that appears to be Mitt Romney, but things may change.

Additionally, the effects of world events transpiring in November could be an extremely important factor in the assessment of presidential candidates. In the end, the excitement of the Democratic and Republican base of supporters will be important, but the key may lay in the battle for the Independent voters, who are likely to play a key role in determining who will win.

5. Electoral College and Inauguration

On December 17, electors for the Electoral College, generally unknown to the public, go to their respective state capitals along with D.C., to cast their ballots to ultimately select the President of the United States. Each state’s votes are then transmitted to Congress, where they are formally counted on Jan. 6, 2013, and the President is formally chosen. A few weeks later, the President is inaugurated. There is no prohibition of federal law to prevent electors from voting differently than the vote that took place in their state. However, this almost never happens.

*Key dates timeline:

April 3: District of Columbia, Maryland, Texas and Wisconsin primaries
April 24: Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island primaries
June 5: California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota primaries
August 27-30: Republican convention held in Tampa, Fla.
September 3-6: Democratic convention held in Charlotte, N.C.
October 3: Presidential debate in Denver, Colo.
October 11: Vice Presidential debate in Danville, Ky.
October 16: Presidential debate in Hempstead, N.Y.
October 22: Presidential debate in Boca Raton, Fla.
November 6: Election Day
December 17: The winning candidate in each state has their electors meet and cast their Electoral College votes in the 50 States and D.C.
Jan. 6, 2013: A joint session of Congress meets to tally all of the Electoral College votes and declares the winner of the Presidential election
Jan. 20, 2013: The President is sworn into office. The public inauguration may be a day or so later since Jan. 20 is a Sunday, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day will fall that Monday.

*Calendar of dates provided by Reuters

Dr. William L. Rosenberg is a professor of political science in the Department of History and Politics. He also serves as director and founder of the Drexel University Survey Research Center and is the co-author of two books related to public opinion and public policy: News Verdicts, the Debates and Presidential Campaigns and The Politics of Disenchantment: Bush, Clinton, Perot and the Press. He also serves as a political campaign and debate analyst for POTUS XM Channel 130 and regularly appears on other print, TV and radio media outlets.