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seven of the republican candidates running for president in 2012 (left to right) Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, and Herman Cain during the first New Hampshire Republican presidential debate, June 13, 2011. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

Election 2012: Election 101

A primer on the upcoming presidential election

By Matthew Zdun | null null , null

On November 6, 2012, Americans will head to the polls to vote for the President of the United States. Even though the country is nearly 17 months away from the election, the pool of candidates is already taking shape.

President Barack Obama has already declared he is running for re-election. The field of Republican challengers is a little more crowded.

On Tuesday, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman announced his intention to seek the Republican nomination for President. He joined seven other candidates who have already begun campaigning:

—U.S. Representative from Minnesota Michelle Bachmann

—Atlanta businessman, legislator, and media member Herman Cain

—Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich

—U.S. Representative from Texas Ron Paul

—Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty

—Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney

—Former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania Rick Santorum

Other potential candidates, like Texas Governor Rick Perry, are still deciding whether to throw their hats into the ring.

The Republican field has already begun debating. Debates are a crucial part of the presidential election cycle. They allow voters to get to know the candidates and their positions on the issues. There are multiple debates during the primary elections. During the general election, there are three debates between candidates for President and one between candidates for Vice President.

The first major Republican debate was held on June 13 in New Hampshire. That state is a crucial battleground in every presidential election. New Hampshire holds the nation's first primary vote, and it can make or break a candidate's hopes for the nomination.

The New Hampshire primary is expected to happen on February 14, 2012.

Iowa is another crucial state during the primaries. It holds the nation's first caucus of the election season. A caucus is a little different than a primary. In a primary vote, people cast individual votes for a candidate by filling out a ballot. In a caucus, residents of the state gather together in schools, churches, and other places and openly show their support for a candidate.

The Iowa caucus will take place on February 6, 2012.

After these first two events, the rest of the country begins voting in primary elections and caucuses held in the other 48 states. Primary voting concludes in June 2012.

The next stops on the road to the White House are choosing a running mate and heading to the national party conventions.

At these conventions, the Democratic and Republican candidates officially accept their party's nomination for President. This year, the Republican convention will be held in Tampa, Florida from August 27-30, 2012, and the Democratic convention will be held in Charlotte, North Carolina from September 3-6, 2012.

The candidates will use their party's conventions to refine their platform and lay out for the American people what they hope to accomplish as President.

Like in 2008, the central issue in 2012 will likely be the economy. The country is still dealing with high unemployment, slow job growth, and a growing national debt.

The future of the Social Security program and health care (especially the reforms passed by President Obama) will certainly factor in to the economic debate, as well.

But the economy isn’t the only issue facing the country. Among the other issues the candidates will have positions on are: the environment and climate change, the military's presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, foreign policy and terrorism, homeland security, and immigration.

The 2012 election is just starting to take shape. Stay tuned to the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps and the Kids Press Corps Blog for all the latest election news and coverage on the ground! And check out the Scholastic News Election 2008 site for resources, games, interactives, and video from the 2008 election!


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