The road to becoming the president of the United States is long and difficult. Not every American can be president. As it says in the Constitution, a presidential candidate must be born a citizen of the United States. He or she must also 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 presidential candidates come from either the Republican Party or the Democratic Party. These two political parties need to decide who will represent them in the race for president.
Two ways each party decides which candidate to put forward are primaries and caucuses. A primary is a popular vote using secret ballots, while the caucus is a more informal gathering of voters who select their choice at the end of the meeting.
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 to inform voters, visit cities and towns, hold rallies, and talk to the electorate 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. However, the U.S. president and vice president are not elected directly by citizens. Instead, they’re chosen by “electors” in a process known as the Electoral College – as outlined in the Constitution. The Electoral College generally votes in the same way as the people, in each state. Because of this system, a candidate can win the popular vote but lose the Electoral College, but this rarely happens.