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March 05, 2012 11:22 AM Super Tuesday and a Question

By Jonathan Bernstein

I need to think of a name for the period of the nomination/general election period in which the nomination is decided, but one or more losing candidate is still contesting primaries. It’s over…but it’s not quite over. In my view, we’ve been there since Florida (or South Carolina) in this cycle; I think we got there after Iowa for Republican in 2000, and after, I don’t know, New Hampshire for Democrats in 1992. I’m not talking about the point at which only the nominee, or the nominee and one or more fringe candidates, remain; I’m talking about the stage before that. The challenge is still serious enough that the presumed nominee has to really contest the primaries, but not serious enough that there’s any real doubt about the long-term outcome (the last candidate may stay in because she miscalculates her chances, or because she figures that even a .01% chance is worth sticking around for).

We know that the pre-primary period is the “invisible primary,” which works really nicely. Then we have the primaries and caucuses. And I’ve seen a few different names for the period after which the nomination is totally wrapped up but everyone is waiting for the convention, whether or not there are still primaries on the schedule. But what about the stage we’re in now? I’m working on it, but I’m open to suggestions, and if anyone has something they’ve been using please pass it along.

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.
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