US Presidential Elections: Two Centuries of Constitutional Continuity and Political Change—With an Analysis of the Political Geography of Barack Obama's Re-election Campaign


  • Michael Dunne


The system for electing the President of the United States remains essentially as it was prescribed in the Federal Constitution drafted in 1787. The individual 50 states (plus the District of Columbia) are accorded a number of votes in the (so-called) Electoral College; each state's Electoral College vote is then attributed to the candidate gaining a plurality (most) of the popular vote in that state; and the candidate with a majority (50% + 1) of these aggregated Electoral College votes is declared the incoming president. What has changed have been the methods of nominating the candidates, chief of which are the political parties from the nineteenth century with their stage-managed quadrennial conventions and the primary/caucus campaigns from the twentieth century which precede and now determine the formal nomination. President Obama's 2012 re-election campaign showed both the crucial importance of the much-maligned Electoral College in winning the presidency and the demographic divisions hidden in the larger American political landscape.