The road to becoming the president of the United States is long and hard. Not every American can be president. As it says in the Constitution, a president must be born a citizen of the United States. He or she must have lived in the U.S. for 14 years, and be at least 35 years of age.
The Campaign Trail
Campaigning for president takes a lot of work and money. Candidates need votes, and that means talking to voters and getting their support. Candidates usually travel from state to state to meet the voters, and each campaign has a lot of employees to make sure everything runs smoothly.
Narrowing the Candidates
Most candidates come from the Republican Party or the Democratic Party. These two political parties need to decide who will represent them in the race for president.
Each party decides which candidate to put forward through primaries and caucuses. A primary is a popular vote using secret ballots, while the caucus is a more informal meeting of voters who make their choice.
The primaries all lead up to the political party convention, where the official choice of the nominee happens. Those candidates who aren’t chosen can still run to be president, but without the backing of the party and the funding of big donors, most drop out of the race.
Once each party has chosen their candidate, the Republican and Democrat nominees campaign against each other. They put ads on TV, radio, and the internet, visit cities and towns, hold rallies, and talk to voters leading up to Election Day. This entire process is very expensive. The average presidential campaign costs between $50 million and $100 million – and spending more doesn’t guarantee a win.
When Election Day arrives, voters have 12 hours to cast their ballots at the polls. Once the polling stations are closed, the votes are counted and reported. But the U.S. president and vice president are not elected directly by citizens. Instead, they’re chosen by “electors” in the Electoral College – as outlined in the Constitution.