P2000 Pre-Primary Period HeaderLink to P2000 Main Page
The Field During the pre-primary period--the year following the mid-term elections--the field of presidential candidates takes shape and the race for money and campaign talent begins.

Most hopefuls will formally declare their candidacies between February and April 1999, while others will announce during this period that they have decided not to run.  As an intermediate step, a would-be candidate may choose to set up an exploratory committee to pursue "testing the waters" activities.  An exploratory committee can raise contributions and make expenditures "solely for the purpose of determining whether an individual should become a candidate."  Establishing such a committee also provides time for the candidate and the campaign team to gear up operations.  Some candidates make a production of announcing an exploratory committee, others simply let the word go forth, and some forego this step altogether.  Once an individual has established an exploratory committee it is likely he or she will run.

A candidate's formal announcement speech sets the tone for his or her campaign. In a symbolic location, surrounded by family and cheering supporters, the candidate outlines the themes that he or she will call upon repeatedly during the course of the campaign. Oftentimes the candidate will do an announcement tour, delivering the same or similar speeches at several stops. Thereafter come countless stump speeches to local Rotary Clubs, to chambers of commerce, to state party conventions, and to assorted other gatherings in school auditoriums and American Legion halls around the country. [Speeches]

Race for Money
If past presidential campaigns are any guide, the major party nominees will be all but settled by the end of 1999. Before the first vote is cast in a caucus or primary, candidates must first engage in "the money primary." Stan Huckaby, a Republican financial consultant, notes that "historically the person who has raised the most in matchable contributions as of the last day of the year prior to the election has always received the nomination." In 1995, for example, Republican hopeful Lamar Alexander raised $10 million doing 250 fund-raising events that took up 70 percent of his time. It wasn't enough; Alexander fell short. Huckaby projects a Republican candidate will need to raise $15-20 million in 1999.

In addition to their core campaign teams, candidates must also build organizations in key states, lining up support and endorsements from county chairmen and elected officials. The contacts and networks built up during the pre-campaign period provide a starting point. In Iowa, New Hampshire and perhaps a few other states, the campaigns open state headquarters to better mobilize supporters. [Iowa, NH]

To attract money and talent, a candidate must convince the party activists and donors that he or she can wage a winning campaign. Some candidates seek strong showings in various straw polls to demonstrate appeal. Major policy speeches draw attention. Favorable media coverage, poll results, major speeches and other developments all become fodder for campaign newsletters and updates as the campaigns seek to show growing support.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the campaign must lay the groundwork for qualifying for the ballot in the 50 states.  Each state has its own rules--some like New York are tortuous, others like South Carolina ($10,000 filing fee for the Republican primary) are expensive and others like New Hampshire are relatively straightforward.  In November and December, filing deadlines start coming up in individual states.  In a vital, but little noticed part of the campaign work goes on to line up full delegate slates, so that if the candidate actually survives the early contests, he or she will not be knocked out by default in later states. 

Campaign Heats Up
By fall 1999, media and public attention turns more and more to Iowa and New Hampshire, where a lucky few voters will finally have a say.  The first candidate debates take place and the candidates' advertising begins in earnest. 

 While debates and forums rarely prove decisive, they do offer voters a good chance to compare the candidates. Some of the forums are actually joint appearances rather than debates featuring direct exchanges between the candidates. Quite a few of the primary debates are televised nationally on CNN, C-SPAN or, sometimes, the other networks, thus reaching a wider audience. 

The debate sponsor may be a news organization (or organizations), the state party, or another group.  How informative a debate is depends on which candidates are invited, which candidates choose to attend, and very importantly, the format. Controversies sometimes arise about underdog candidates who are not invited.  Alternatively, if there is a strong frontrunner, he or she often chooses to duck all but a few forums. When ten or more candidates are vying for a party's nomination, it can be very difficult to produce a coherent event. In the past, some debates have come to resemble game shows, or have been badly chopped up with advertising breaks. In a May 1999 letter >, former Speaker Newt Gingrich proposed that Republican hopefuls engage in forums "based on the Lincoln-Douglas debates in which serious people make thoughtful remarks about important topics."  Proposed Debates and Candidate Forums

Exit Stage Left

For some candidates, the months of planning and preparation, hard work and handshaking are not enough to make it to the starting line, let alone secure the party's nomination.  At some point reality sets in, and it becomes impossible to continue without going into debt.  Thus a few candidates withdraw before the first votes are cast.  Emotions are high, and a few tears may be shed, as the candidate, surrounded by family and staff, announces the end of his or her quest.  The speech and the Q and A that may follow, offers initial insights into what the candidate feels he or she accomplished and why he or she failed to gain more support.  The candidate may also take this opportunity to throw his or her support to one of the remaining contenders. 
John Kasich (7/14) | Lamar Alexander (8/16) | Dan Quayle (9/27) | Elizabeth Dole (10/20)
Note: Kasich and Dole were not formally declared candidates, but mounted full bore exploratory campaigns.

How the Field Took Shape...
Candidates' Formal Announcement Speeches
Sen. John McCain--September 27, 1999 at Greeley Park in Nashua, NH. >

Alan Keyes--September 20, 1999 at the Fort Des Moines Hotel in Des Moines, Iowa. >

Former Sen. Bill Bradley--September 8, 1999 from the steps of Crystal City High School in Crystal City, MO. >

Vice President Al Gore--June 16, 1999 on Main Street in front of the Smith County Courthouse in Carthage, TN. >

Gov. George W. Bush--did not deliver a formal announcement speech, but his June 12, 1999 speech in Cedar Rapids, IA during his first foray onto the campaign trail came close. >

Gary Bauer--April 21, 1999 at Newport High School in Newport, KY. >

Former Vice President Dan Quayle--April 14, 1999 at Huntington North High School in Huntington, IN. >

Steve Forbes--March 16, 1999 on the Forbes web site, Forbes2000.com. >

Former Gov. Lamar Alexander--March 9, 1999 in the Old Supreme Court Chamber at the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville, TN. >

Pat Buchanan--March 2, 1999 at The Courtyard in Manchester, NH. >

Sen. Bob Smith--February 18, 1999 at Kingswood Regional High School in Wolfeboro, NH. >

Not This Time: Prospects Who Decided Not to Run in 2000
1996 Republican Vice Presidential Nominee Jack Kemp--March 31, 1999 at a Habitat for Humanity breakfast in Detroit. >

Rev. Jesse Jackson--March 24, 1999 in a statement posted on the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition website and on Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.'s website, as well in an appearance at the LaSalle Street Project luncheon in Chicago. >

Sen. Fred Thompson (R-TN)--March 2, 1999 during the course of a routine interview with Tennessee reporters.>

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA)--Feb. 26, 1999 news conference in his Boston office.>

Former Gov. Pete Wilson (R-CA)--Feb. 22, 1999 article in the Los Angeles Times by George Skelton (based on an interview he did Feb. 19) and a letter to supporters. >

Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-MO)--Feb. 3, 1999 speech to the House Democratic Caucus in the U.S. Capitol, Room HC 5.  >

Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-MN)--Jan. 9, 1998 news conference at the State Capitol in St. Paul, MN.  >

Sen. John Ashcroft (R-MO)--Jan. 5, 1998 announcement at Boys and Girls Club in Springfield, MO.  >

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA)--told the Marietta Daily Journal in late Dec. 1998 that, "For the next few years, I want to stay in private industry." >

Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-NE)--Dec. 13, 1998 at BACK PAC economic summit in Omaha, NE. >

Gov. Jesse Ventura (Ref.-MN)--in statements shortly after the Nov. 3, 1998 election.

Gov. Howard Dean (D-VT)--interview by Rutland Herald statehouse reporter in the Jan. 4, 1998 Herald.

Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell.

Forming Committees (Dates Formally Established)
Orrin Hatch Presidential Exploratory Committee, Inc.--July 1, 1999 >
McCain 2000, Inc.--April 14, 1999 >
Forbes 2000, Inc.--March 16, 1999 >
Alexander for President, Inc.--March 9, 1999 >
Elizabeth Dole for President Exploratory Committee--March 10, 1999 >
The Governor George W. Bush Exploratory Committee, Inc.--March 8, 1999  >
Buchanan 2000, Inc.--March 1, 1999  >
Bauer for President 2000 Exploratory Committee--Feb. 1, 1999  >
Quayle 2000 Exploratory Committee--Jan. 28, 1999  >
Kasich 2000 (exploratory committee)--Jan. 13, 1999  >
Bill Bradley for President--Jan. 12, 1999  >
Lamar Alexander for President Exploratory Committee, Inc.--Jan. 8, 1999
Bob Smith for President Committee--Jan. 4, 1999  >
Gore 2000--Dec. 31, 1998  >
John McCain for President Exploratory Committee--Dec. 30, 1998
The Bill Bradley Presidential Exploratory Committee--Dec. 4, 1998
Draft Elizabeth Dole 2000 Committee (unauthorized)--Oct. 8, 1998
Wellstone Presidential Exploratory Committee--April 8, 1998  >
Keyes 2000 (exploratory committee)--formed July 1997, filed with FEC on June 16, 1999>

Copyright 1998, 1999  Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action.