Presumptive nominee

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In United States politics, the presumptive nominee is a political candidate who is assured of his or her party's nomination, but has not yet been formally nominated. A candidate may be considered a presumptive nominee after all other major competitors have dropped out and it is considered unlikely that the candidate will withdraw, be usurped, or be otherwise removed from the race.

The presumptive nominee is the candidate who has not yet received the formal nomination of his or her political party at the party's nominating convention, but who has acquired enough delegate commitments through the primary elections and caucuses to be assured – barring unforeseen events – of the eventual nomination at the convention.[1] The term is applicable to the candidate's selected running mate as well. The term is applied widely on the national level, notably in regard to the U.S. presidential nominating conventions, as well as at the statewide level.[2]

Different news organizations declare a person the presumptive nominee based on their own standards. Not all news organizations use the term, other phrases such as apparent nominee and presumed nominee have been used.[3]

In the U.S. presidential elections, the selection of delegates has been increasingly shifted earlier in the process to produce a presumptive nominee as early as possible, even in the presence of many strong candidates. The rise of Super Tuesday in the 1980s has led to the emergence of a presumptive nominee in both major parties by early March in all recent elections with the exception of 2008, when a spirited contest between Democratic Party candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama made it impossible for Obama to secure enough delegates to become the presumptive nominee until early June. George W. Bush and Al Gore were the presumptive nominees of their respective parties after Super Tuesday in 2000,[4] and John Kerry was referred to as the presumptive nominee for the Democratic Party by May 2004.[5] In May 2012, the Republican National Committee formally declared Mitt Romney the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party prior to his having received the minimum number of pledged delegates needed to clinch the nomination.[6]

In presidential elections when an incumbent is seeking reelection, the incumbent is traditionally his or her party's presumptive nominee. Recent examples include Ronald Reagan in 1984, Bill Clinton in 1996, George W. Bush in 2004, and Barack Obama in 2012. However, a strong challenger or a President with low approval ratings can negate that status: examples in recent history include Republican President Gerald Ford, who faced a challenge from Reagan in 1976, and Democratic President Jimmy Carter, challenged by Ted Kennedy in 1980. Despite such historical precedences, it is traditionally frowned upon for a candidate to challenge an incumbent for the party nomination.


  1. ^ Sabato, Larry; Ernst, Howard R. Encyclopedia of American political parties and elections. Infobase Publishing. 2006. p. 216. ISBN 9780816058754. 
  2. ^ Wiessler, David (March 4, 2008) "FACTBOX: Presidential political terms", Retrieved December 1, 2009.
  3. ^ Zimmer, Ben (June 10, 2008) "The Presumptive Nominee, I Presume?", Thinkmap Visual Thesaurus. Retrieved December 1, 2009.
  4. ^ Raasch, Chuck. (March 7, 2000) November contest looks like Gore vs. Bush, Gannett News Service. USA Today.
  5. ^ (May 5, 2004) Kerry strikes back at Bush on ads, CNN.
  6. ^ Memoli, Michael A. (April 25, 2012). "RNC officially names Mitt Romney the party's 'presumptive nominee'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 1, 2012.