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The Road to the White House

On November 6, 2012, Americans will go to the polls to cast their ballots for the man (or woman) who will serve as U.S. president for the following four years, but first they must select delegates who will vote at national conventions to determine which candidates appear on those ballots.

The road to the White House seems to lengthen with each successive election cycle. For months, prospective candidates have been testing the waters with exploratory committees, fundraising events and tours of states holding early primaries.

Achieving the U.S. presidency almost certainly will involve first winning the nomination of one of the country’s major political parties by securing the votes of a majority of the delegates attending a national convention.

So-called “third party” candidates — those not affiliated with either the Democratic or the Republican party — could affect the outcome of the race by depriving the major candidates of votes, but, based on U.S. history, are unlikely to be elected themselves.

Democratic and Republican parties set their own rules for selecting delegates and for allocating votes among participating jurisdictions. However incumbency (already holding the office you seek) is such an advantage in any U.S. campaign. President Obama’s nomination by the Democratic Party is not contested.