State Influence in the Presidential Selection Process

Assessing Pennsylvania's Non-Participation in the Frontloading Trend


  • James E. Vike



The frontloading trend in the presidential primary system has been widely criticized for creating disparities among states in their level of influence over the presidential selection process. This article examines the general motivations, benefits, and consequences of state participation in frontloading. It focuses upon Pennsylvania, which has not joined the trend. Presidential primaries in Pennsylvania have become increasingly uncompetitive due to frontloading in other states. Comparative analysis with Ohio and forecasting analysis based on Pennsylvania voting history suggest that an earlier presidential primary in Pennsylvania in 2000 would have resulted in not only more candidate competitiveness and campaign activity, but also more voter choice and voter turnout. Yet, fear of increased administrative burdens and disruption to the electoral status quo stopped Pennsylvania's legislators from adopting the change.