Junior Scholastic
Junior Scholastic is a current events magazine for grades 6-8 that covers important national and world events supporting Social Studies curriculum. It includes more articles, maps, posters, and skill-building activities than any other Social Studies magazine for middle school students.


A Democratic caucus in Iowa in 2008. A Democratic caucus in Iowa in 2008. (Alessandro Cosmelli / Contrasto / Redux)

How to Pick a Presidential Candidate

In a series of primaries and caucuses, Republicans will decide who will run against President Obama in November

Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and several other Republicans have been campaigning for their party’s nomination for months, and in some cases, years. This week, Republican voters* will start the process of deciding which candidate will run against President Barack Obama, a Democrat, on November 6.

A primary works very much like a general election, with voters heading to a polling place to cast secret ballots. In a caucus, however, there may or may not be a secret ballot. People gather in schools, churches, and even private homes across their state to discuss the candidates and then make their choices.

Technically, primaries and caucuses are about electing delegates who pledge to support particular candidates at the party’s convention. The Republican Convention will be in Tampa, Florida, in August.

Iowa kicks off with the first caucus on January 3. New Hampshire follows with the first primary a week later. Between then and the end of June, the other 48 states— plus Washington, D.C., and the U.S. territories—will vote.

On March 6, Super Tuesday, presidential primaries and caucuses will be held in the most states on a single day.


Use the article and map (see left sidebar) to answer these questions. Write your answers on a separate sheet of paper.

1. Which state will be the next to hold a primary election after New Hampshire?

2. When will California, the nation’s most populous state, hold its primary?

3. How many states will be holding Republican caucuses this year?

4. Which method—primary or caucus—will U.S. territories use to select delegates?

5. Not counting Wyoming, how many states will hold a primary or a caucus on March 6?

6. What is that day known as and why?

7. Which state will hold both a primary and a caucus?

8. Which of the two events will choose that state’s delegates to the convention?

9. Which state will be the last to hold a primary? Where will the last caucus be held?

10. Which method of choosing a presidential candidate—primary or caucus—do you think is fairer? Explain.

For more election news, plus maps, games, and videos, go to

This article originally appeared in the January 2, 2012, edition of Junior Scholastic. For more from Junior Scholastic, click here.

* Some states allow voters of other parties to participate in what are known as “open primaries.”

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