Each student will be assigned a state in an in-class lottery on September 7. The chosen state will be the subject of a 7-10 page (double spaced) paper and worth 400 semester points (40% of total grade). In general, the subject of the paper is the two major parties in the state, with particular focus on the following criteria:
– Organization. What is the structure of the state parties? How big is the permanent staff of each? How centralized or decentralized are they (i.e., power focused at the state or county/precinct level)? Who are the party leaders and how are they chosen? How are rank and file (usually local) party officials chosen (i.e., how open/accessible vs. closed/complicated is the process by which local members attain their positions)?
– Party strength in government. To what extent is each party dominant in office-holding positions? Who (and what party) are the Governor and U.S. Senators? What are the party breakdowns in the state?s U.S. House delegation and in the state legislature? Are there especially prominent, nationally recognized party elected officials? If applicable, are there locally elected and noteworthy party officeholders (mayors, county officials)? Do these elected officials seem to be strongly identified with the parties themselves, or are they ?mavericks? who seem to be somewhat independent of their party and its core ideas?
– Party strength in the electorate. How ?red? or ?blue? is the state? If the state keeps registration records, what is the party breakdown of registered voters? Has it changed much over the last 10-20 years? At a minimum, what have been the statewide (presidential, gubernatorial and U.S. Senate) partisan election results since 2004? Do you detect any change or trend in the overall strength of the party in elections? Any ideas about why the reasons for relative party strength and popularity in the state?
– Presidential nomination process. Describe the procedures by which the state parties choose their presidential nominees. When do these take place, and have those dates remained relatively constant since 2004? Is it a caucus or a primary? How many delegates to the national convention does each state party have? Describe the process by which the state?s delegates for each party are chosen. Do the parties differ on any of these factors? Are there reasons for those differences (or similarities)?