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- AIR WAR look up translate image
- The battle between candidates to get as much advertising on television and radio as possible. In recent years, online adverts, which are cheaper and can be more carefully targeted, have grown increasingly important.
- BALANCING THE TICKET look up translate image
- When the presidential candidate chooses a vice-presidential candidate whose qualities balance out the nominee's perceived weaknesses.So for example, in 2008, Barack Obama, seen as young and relatively inexperienced, selected veteran Senator Joe Biden as his running mate.
- BALLOT INITIATIVE look up translate image
- A procedure allowed in a number of states under which citizens are able to propose a change in the law.If the initiative's backers can gather enough signatures, the proposed change is put to the voters in a referendum. If it is approved by the voters it then becomes law.
Ballot initiatives are sometimes referred to as ballot measures or propositions.
- BATTLEGROUND STATE look up translate image
- A large state with an electorate split relatively evenly between Democrats and Republicans, so named because candidates spend a disproportionate amount of time and money campaigning there.Traditional battleground states include Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, which have 29, 18 and 20 electoral votes respectively.
- BELLWETHER STATE look up translate image
- A state that historically tends to vote for the winning candidate, perhaps because it is, demographically, a microcosm of the country as a whole.A good example is Ohio, which has not backed a losing presidential candidate since 1960. In fact, no Republican has ever won the White House without the state.
The term derives from the name for a sheep which shepherds would fit with a bell. By listening out for this sheep, the bellwether, shepherds were able to locate the position of the entire flock.
- BELTWAY look up translate image
- An American term for the orbital highway or ring-road that often surrounds major cities. In political reporting, the term refers to business undertaken inside the Interstate 495 highway surrounding Washington DC.A beltway issue is a political issue or debate considered to be of importance only to the political and media class and of little interest to the general public. Those considered to have a beltway mentality are seen as being out of touch with the ordinary voters.
- BENGHAZI look up translate image
- Islamic militants attacked a US diplomatic compound in 2012 in the Libyan city of Benghazi and killed four Americans, including ambassador Chris Stevens, while Mrs Clinton was secretary of state. The incident has become a hot political issue with Republicans blaming Mrs Clinton for the loss of life.
- BERNIE BROS look up translate image
- A pejorative term for (usually male) supporters of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders who attacked Hillary Clinton and her supporters during the primary race. The abuse was often on social media and commonly misogynistic.
- BILL OF RIGHTS look up translate image
- The collective term for the first 10 amendments to the US constitution establishing the fundamental rights of individual citizens.The amendments act as a mutually reinforcing set of rights and limit the powers of federal and state governments. Acts of Congress or laws ruled to be in conflict with these rights are deemed unconstitutional and may be declared void by the US Supreme Court.
The framers of the US constitution added the Bill of Rights in part because few individual rights were specified in the main body of the constitution.
- BLUE STATE look up translate image
- A state where people tend to vote for the Democratic Party.
Blue state is a term used to refer to a U.S. state where the majority of voters usually support Democratic candidates and causes. See also Red state.
- BUCKLEY V. VALEO look up translate image
- The legal challenge Buckley v. Valeo resulted in a landmark 1976 U.S. Supreme Court decision on campaign finance law that upheld the Federal Election Campaign Act’s financial disclosure requirements, contribution limits and provision for public funding of presidential election campaigns. The court struck down spending limits in the law, except for the limits accepted voluntarily by presidential candidates who receive public funds. Thus, the ruling allowed for unlimited spending by congressional...(more)
- BUNDLER look up translate image
- A person who gathers ("bundles") campaign contributions to a candidate from his or her network of friends and business associates.Bundlers, who are often wealthy and well-connected, play a crucial role in contemporary campaign finance.
Individuals are barred by federal law from donating more than $2,500 (£1,603) per election to a candidate. But they can increase their influence by providing to the candidate cheques they have solicited from their associates and acquaintances.
The elite bundlers for President George W Bush's 2000 and 2004 campaigns were dubbed Rangers and Pioneers, a mark of their status.
- CAPITOL look up translate image
- The seat of Congress in Washington DC.Constructed largely of white marble, it is home to both the Senate and House of Representatives.
The steps of the Capitol building are traditionally the stage for the inauguration of presidents on the 20 January following an election year.
- CAUCUS look up translate image
- A meeting of party members and activists at which they choose which candidate to back for the party nomination.In procedures that vary by state and party, participants in presidential caucuses meet in their local communities to choose which candidates they want to support.
The caucuses allocate delegates based on the level of that support. The results are then tallied state-wide, and the candidate with the most delegates is said to win the state.
Critics of the caucus system argue that its laborious...(more)
- CHALLENGER look up translate image
- A challenger is a candidate who runs for political office against a person who currently holds that office (the incumbent). See also Incumbent.
- CITIZENS UNITED look up translate image
- A 2010 Supreme Court ruling that overturned restrictions on corporate spending in political campaigns.In the 5-4 decision, the court equated corporations' right to spend money to influence an election with the right to free speech held by individuals under the First Amendment to the US constitution.
It overturned a ban on corporate and union spending on electioneering communications - that is, so-called issue ads broadcast within 60 days of a general election (or 30 days for primary elections)...(more)
- CITIZENS UNITED V. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION look up translate image
- This 2010 Supreme Court decision affirmed shareholders and other groups of people enjoy the same rights that they would have if they were acting as individuals. The court also ruled that the government cannot restrict how much such groups can spend to support or criticize political candidates. See also Super PACs.
- CLOSED PRIMARY look up translate image
- Candidates from the two major political parties (Democratic and Republican) compete to be their parties’ nominee for an office in a primary election. Closed primaries are restricted to voters registered as a member of the party holding the election. Unaffiliated voters receive ballots for other measures and nonpartisan contests that occur on the same date. See also Primary.
- COATTAILS look up translate image
- The expression “coattails” is an allusion to the rear panels (or “tails”) of a man’s coat. In American politics, it refers to the ability of a popular officeholder or candidate for office, on the strength of his or her own popularity, to increase the chances for victory of other candidates of the same political party. This candidate is said to carry others to victory on his or her coattails.
- COMMANDER IN CHIEF look up translate image
- The constitutional role granted to the president as head of the United States' armed forces.
- CONGRESS look up translate image
- The legislative branch of the US government as prescribed in Article I of the US constitution.It is made up of two houses - the 435-member House of Representatives and 100-member Senate - each of which officially has equal power, if not prestige.
A congressional period lasts two years (or sessions) and begins at noon on 3 January of odd-numbered years.
As well as drafting and implementing laws, Congress can also:
- Investigate matters of public concern
- Oversee federal agencies and...(more)
- CONGRESSMAN/WOMAN look up translate image
- A member of the House of Representatives, typically. The term can refer to a member of the Senate.
- CONSTITUENCY look up translate image
- The people a government official represents make up his or her constituency. The term sometimes is used to refer only to those individuals who voted to elect the official. The president’s constituency comprises all Americans; a mayor’s constituency comprises the people who reside in the town or city.
- CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES look up translate image
- The fundamental and founding law of the US federal system of government.The US constitution and its 27 amendments establish the principal organs of government, their roles, and the basic rights of citizens.
It is upheld as the supreme law of the land, meaning all federal and state laws, executive actions and judicial decisions must be consistent with it.
The US constitution was ratified in 1788, and was most recently amended in 1992. It is the oldest written national constitution in effect.
- CONVENTION look up translate image
- In presidential election years, after state primaries and caucuses have concluded, the political parties gather to select a presidential nominee — usually the candidate who secured the support of the most convention delegates, based on victories in primary elections. The presidential nominee usually chooses a running mate to be the candidate for vice president, but the presidential nominee can throw open the vice presidential selection process to the convention delegates without making a recommendation.
- CONVENTION BOUNCE look up translate image
- An increase in a presidential candidate’s popularity, as indicated by public-opinion polls, in the days immediately following his or her nomination for office at a national convention.
- DEBATE look up translate image
- A structured discussion involving two or more opposing sides is a debate. In American politics, debates have come to be associated with televised programs at which candidates present their own and their parties’ views in response to questions from the media or members of the audience. Debates also may be held via radio, the Internet or at a community meeting place. They can be held among those who seek elective office at any level of government.
- DELEGATES look up translate image
- The party members whose votes at the national convention officially determine the two parties' presidential candidates.Most of the delegates at the convention are obligated to vote for the candidate chosen in primary elections or caucuses in their home state. They are referred to as pledged or elected delegates. Some delegates, however, are unpledged and are able to vote for any candidate at the convention.
In the Democratic Party, these unpledged delegates are called super-delegates. They include...(more)
- DIVIDED GOVERNMENT look up translate image
- A situation in which the U.S. president is a member of one political party and at least one chamber of Congress (either the Senate or the House of Representatives) is controlled by another party is called a divided government. This situation also can exist at the state level, with one party controlling the governorship and another controlling the state legislature. Divided government occurs frequently in the U.S. political system.
- DONKEY, DEMOCRATIC look up translate image
- The donkey has become the established - although unofficial - political symbol for the Democratic Party. Democratic Party historians say the symbol was first used during Andrew Jackson's presidential campaign in 1828.Labelled a jackass by his opponents, he adopted the donkey for his campaign posters and it stuck with him.
New York cartoonist Thomas Nast, a radical Republican, later also used the donkey to represent a group of northern anti-civil war Democrats, and more generally as a symbol for pro-Democrat editors and newspapers.
By the end of the 19th Century, the symbol was firmly established.
- ELECTION ASSISTANCE COMMISSION look up translate image
- Established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002, the Election Assistance Commission serves primarily as a national clearinghouse and resource for information on elections. It also reviews federal election administration and procedures.
- ELECTORAL COLLEGE look up translate image
- The collective term for the 538 electors who officially elect the president and vice-president of the United States.Presidential candidates require a majority of 270 college votes to win the presidency. The number of electors for each state is equal to the combined total of its senators and representatives in Congress.
The college system was conceived before the existence of political parties and was designed to allow the electors to act as independent voters. Electors are now expected to follow...(more)
- ELEPHANT, REPUBLICAN look up translate image
- The traditional symbol for the Republican Party, believed first to have been used in that context by an Illinois newspaper during Abraham Lincoln's 1860 election.Thomas Nast popularised the image in a cartoon in a 1874 edition of Harper's Weekly, as pro-Democrat newspapers were accusing the Republican president of Caesarism for allegedly seeking a third term in office.
- EMAILS (CLINTON'S...) look up translate image
- While she was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013, Hillary Clinton relied on a privately hosted email server that handled all her personal and professional electronic correspondence.The system became the centre of controversy in 2015 following confirmation of its existence and was the subject of hearings in Congress, public-interest lawsuits and an FBI criminal investigation that resulted in no charges being filed.
Around 50,000 of emails identified as work-related by Mrs Clinton's staff have...(more)
- FEDERAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN ACT (FECA) look up translate image
- First implemented in 1971, the Federal Election Campaign Act is a US federal law that provides for the disclosure of financial contributions to federal campaigns and regulates contributions.In 1974, the law was toughened and new amendments established strict disclosure requirements for campaign donations, set specific limits for those donations, instituted public financing of presidential elections, and established the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to govern the whole process.
- FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION (FEC) look up translate image
- In 1975, Congress created the Federal Election Commission as an independent regulatory agency to administer and enforce federal election law.The FEC discloses campaign finance information, enforces the law and oversees the public funding of presidential elections. By law, no more than three of the six members of the commission can be members of the same political party.
During an election period, the commission collects and publishes lists of contributions to all the official candidates, as well...(more)
- FILIBUSTER look up translate image
- A parliamentary technique of delaying a vote to pass legislation by giving a long speech.In the Senate, it takes 60 votes to defeat a filibuster by ending debate on a bill.
In current practice, the minority party needs only to threaten a filibuster to block legislation, because the majority party typically holds less than the 60 votes needed to end debate on a bill and move to a final vote.
One of the most infamous uses of the filibuster came in 1957, when South Carolina Democrat Strom Thurmond gave a 24-hour tirade against a piece of civil rights legislation, in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to block it.
- FOUNDING FATHERS look up translate image
- An imprecise term used most often to describe those involved in drafting the Declaration of Independence from Britain in 1776 and the framing and adoption of the constitution at the Philadelphia Convention of 1787.The term is sometimes also used to include influential figures in the struggle for independence and those who fought the Revolutionary War.
- FRONT-LOADING look up translate image
- The tendency, which has become more marked in recent years, for states to move their primaries and caucuses forward, in an attempt to be among the first states holding a nominating contest.State authorities believe that coming at the front of the queue increases their influence on the nomination process. However, if too many states hold their contests in a short space of time, critics argue, candidates are unable to connect with voters in each individual state.
A side-effect is that the process...(more)
- FRONT-RUNNER look up translate image
- A candidate in any election or nomination process who is considered most popular or most likely to win is called the front-runner.
- GAFFE look up translate image
- A verbal error or slip-up made by a politician or other political figure. Or in a famous formulation by American journalist Michael Kinsley, a gaffe is when a politician accidentally says something he or she really means but that was better left unsaid.
- GERRYMANDERING look up translate image
- The practice of drawing political constituency maps to increase a particular candidate's or party's advantage in a subsequent election.In its rawest form, gerrymandering is when politicians choose their voters, rather than voters choosing their politicians.
In the US, political district maps are typically redrawn once a decade following the completion of the census.
The party in power in a state government uses sophisticated mapping and statistical data to redraw the map to ensure its candidates...(more)
- GOVERNOR look up translate image
- The elected official of a state who is responsible for the effective and efficient workings of its government.A governor's term of office lasts for four years. The number of times a governor can be re-elected varies from state to state.
- GRAND OLD PARTY (GOP) look up translate image
- The traditional nickname for the Republican Party widely used in American political reporting.
- GRIDLOCK look up translate image
- In politics, when a political party or faction creates obstacles that block or severely hinder compromise on legislation or policy issues, the situation is described as gridlock.
- HANGING CHAD look up translate image
- A chad is the small piece of waste paper or card created when a hole is punched in a ballot.Chads became famous in the 2000 presidential election, when the results in Florida were so close that a recount was necessary and electoral officials were forced to examine the ballot papers to determine voters' intentions.
Some voters had punched their preferences, but the chad had not fully separated from the ballot (a hanging chad).
In other cases, an indentation had been made in the ballot but it had not been punched through (a pregnant or dimpled chad).
- HARD MONEY look up translate image
- Money contributed by an individual directly to a particular campaign.Individuals can currently contribute $2,500 to a candidate's primary campaign, and an additional $2,500 to a candidate's general election campaign. They can make these donations to multiple candidates.
The first $250 an individual donates to a candidate's primary campaign can be matched dollar-for-dollar from federal matching funds.
Limits on state-wide elections vary according to state laws.
- HARD MONEY/SOFT MONEY look up translate image
- Hard money and soft money are terms used to differentiate between campaign funding that is, and is not, regulated under federal campaign finance law. Hard money describes donations by individuals and groups made directly to political candidates running for federal office. Such contributions are restricted by law. Soft money refers to donations not regulated by law that can be spent only on civic activities such as voter-registration drives, party-building activities, administrative costs and in...(more)
- HATCH ACT look up translate image
- The Hatch Act places restrictions on political activity by employees of the executive branch of the U.S. federal government, District of Columbia government, and state and local employees who work in connection with federally funded programs. Under the act, employees are permitted to contribute to a candidate’s campaign, but are restricted from using official authority to influence an election, including soliciting or receiving political contributions and engaging in political activity — including...(more)
- HELP AMERICA VOTE ACT (HAVA) look up translate image
- Congress passed HAVA to address voting problems encountered in the 2000 presidential election. The act encourages state and local governments to eliminate punch-card and lever voting machines. Under HAVA, states have received $2.9 billion since 2003 to improve their election processes. The law also established the Election Assistance Commission to provide support to the administration of federal elections, as well as election laws and programs.
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