The Imperfect Primary : Oddities, Biases, and Strengths of U.S. Presidential Nomination Politics book cover
2nd Edition

The Imperfect Primary
Oddities, Biases, and Strengths of U.S. Presidential Nomination Politics

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ISBN 9781138786387
Published March 6, 2015 by Routledge
186 Pages

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Book Description

The complex and ever-changing rules governing American presidential nomination contests are continuously up for criticism, but there is little to no consensus on exactly what the problems are, or on how to fix them. The evolving system is hardly rational because it was never carefully planned. So how are we to make sense of the myriad complexities in the primary process, how it affects the general election, and calls for change?

In this thoroughly updated second edition of The Imperfect Primary, political scientist Barbara Norrander explores how presidential candidates are nominated, how that process bridges to the general election campaign, discusses past and current proposals for reform, and examines the possibility for more practical, incremental changes to the electoral rules. Norrander reminds us to be careful what we wish for—reforming the presidential nomination process is as complex as the current system. Through the modelling of empirical research to demonstrate how questions of biases can be systematically addressed, students can better see the advantages, disadvantages, and potential for unintended consequences in a whole host of reform proposals.

The second edition includes an entirely new chapter on the connections between the primary and general election phases of presidential selection. The entire book has been revised to reflect the 2012 presidential primaries and election.

Table of Contents

1. Happenstance and Reforms  2. Presidential Nomination Politics at the Dawn of the 21st Century  3. Is This a Fair Way to Select a Presidential Nominee?  4. Alternative Methods for Nominating Presidents  5. Connections to the General Election. 6. Oddities, Biases, and Strengths of U.S. Presidential Elections.

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Barbara Norrander is a professor in the School of Government and Public Policy at the University of Arizona. She has been writing about presidential nominations since the early 1980s.


Barbara Norrander's new edition of The Imperfect Primary confirms the book's status as the first place to look for anyone wanting to understand the complex and often arcane process used to nominate American presidential candidates. It provides a lucid, thorough, and concise account of the system's origins, current configuration, and strengths and weaknesses as a way of selecting national leaders. This new edition will serve as an authoritative guide for students and others who want to follow the action heading into the 2016 election.—Gary Jacobson, University of California, San Diego 

The author discusses the history of nominations, recent changes to the nomination process, the growing impact of party rules, primary timing, and the impact competitive primaries have on general elections; she concludes with an interesting overall analysis of what works and does not work within the current system. Norrander's work is timely, detailed, and particularly relevant as hotly contested primaries continue to fracture political parties in the US and raise questions about how Americans choose candidates to put up for national office. --W. Miller, Flagler College CHOICE