The coronavirus is not just disrupting everyday life, it’s disrupting the presidential election as well. The good news is that these disruptions provide a great opportunity for homeschool students to engage in the presidential election—and get to know the primary calendar a little better. Here, we help your homeschool family navigate the 2020 presidential election’s primary calendar—coronavirus and all.
In this newsletter, you’ll find a quick lesson on the primary calendar (including coronavirus disruptions), hands-on activities to do with your homeschool students, and video links to explore the presidential election primary calendar in your homeschool.
In our Presidential Election Unit Study 2020, we cover all the ins and outs of the primary season. The primary election is actually a series of elections where candidates from the same party compete against each other for the party’s nomination. That is, they compete to decide who whose name will be on the ballot in the November presidential election.
And there’s good news! We’re offering our lesson on the primaries as a free download on the Silverdale Press website! Click here to download the free lesson on the primaries or buy now.
The Primary Calendar
The presidential primary calendar can be confusing—for homeschool students, parents, and average Americans alike. Different states vote at different times. Some states have regular old primary elections, and some states have caucuses. There’s all this attention on the states that vote early, but the states that vote late in the calendar seem to get the short end of the stick. Do the votes of the people in the states that vote late in the calendar even matter?
Understanding the primary calendar is key to figuring out who will ultimately become a party’s nominee. Candidates plan their strategies around the primary calendar. Where should they spend their time? Where should they spend their advertising dollars? Which states have people who will vote for them?
Iowa and New Hampshire
Iowa is first state in the nation to vote, and New Hampshire is second state in the nation to vote. These two states very important for presidential candidates. If they do well in Iowa and New Hampshire, they go on to compete in later contests. If they do poorly in these states, many will decide to end their campaigns.
Months—even years—before Iowans cast their votes, presidential candidates travel to fairs, farms, and coffee shops around Iowa to meet and greet voters. The presidential candidates make speeches. They run advertisements on television and the radio. They talk to everyday voters about their everyday problems. Finally, in the early days of a presidential election year (usually January or February), Iowans will go to their caucus sites and vote. Candidates who finish ahead of the pack will go on to compete in New Hampshire. Those who finish at the end of the pack will either drop out or make the hard decision to go on.
New Hampshire voters are different than Iowa voters. Sometimes, candidates who do well in Iowa do not do well in New Hampshire. But New Hampshire is still very important. It gives candidates who lost in Iowa a second chance to prove that they can win with a different group of voters.
We dig deeper into Iowa and New Hampshire in our Presidential Election Unit Study 2020. Click here to download a sample chapter or buy now.
Nevada and South Carolina
It’s hard—but not impossible—for a candidate to lose in both Iowa and New Hampshire but go on to win the nomination. Nevada and South Carolina usually vote next. These states are also important because they give candidates yet another chance to prove they can win.
Nevada and South Carolina are in different regions of the country. The people who live there are more diverse than in Iowa and New Hampshire. They have different tastes, backgrounds, histories, and interests.
Fun fact: Between 1976 and 2016, there was only one candidate to lose in both Iowa and New Hampshire but to go on to win the nomination. Do you know who it was? It was Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton in 1992. He lost in both Iowa and New Hampshire but did very well in South Carolina. After he proved himself in South Carolina, he went on to do well in the rest of the states. Because of his come-from-behind victory, Clinton became known as the “comeback kid.”
The parties have rules that keep other states from voting before Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. And there are penalties if the states break those rules. States still want to have as much impact on the primary election as they possibly can. So many states schedule their elections as early as they can, if their state election laws allow. That’s how we get Super Tuesday. In 2020, Super Tuesday was on the first Tuesday in March.
If one candidate does really well on Super Tuesday, it can be hard for others to catch up. Candidates who did not have a good showing on Super Tuesday will usually drop out. Those who do well enough can go on to compete in the rest of the states.
The Rest of the States
Do the rest of the states matter? It depends. If the race is close the rest of the states can matter. For example, the 2008 Democratic primary was a really close race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Obama won Iowa. Clinton won New Hampshire. The Super Tuesday states did not choose a clear winner. Obama and Clinton competed in every single state. And every state mattered. When the very last primary was over, Obama had a slight lead over Clinton. He became the party’s nominee.
But in 2016, the Republican primary was pretty much over by Super Tuesday. Texas Senator Ted Cruz won in Iowa. Donald Trump won in New Hampshire--and effectively ensured himself victory on Super Tuesday.
The 2020 Primary Calendar—Disrupted
The 2020 primary calendar will be one for the history books. For the first time in modern history, a pandemic has forced some states, such as Georgia and Ohio, to postpone their primaries. The coronavirus (COVID-19) has disrupted the primary calendar. What will happen to the race? Will the states reschedule and when? There is still so much uncertainty.
Just because the coronavirus has disrupted the primary season—and probably your homeschool routine—you have a great learning opportunity to engage your homeschool in the presidential election.
Here are some primary calendar activities to keep your homeschool students busy while hunkered down at home.
Here are some good internet resources about presidential primary calendar (and disruptions):
Click here to learn more about the Presidential Election Unit Study 2020 for your homeschool and to download your free lesson on the primaries. It would also work well for homeschool co-ops.
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