June 4, 2008 / 1:53 AM / 10 years ago

FACTBOX: Presidential political terms

(Reuters) - U.S. presidential politics has a language all its own. Here are some words that crop up regularly in the campaign:

NOMINATING CONVENTION - The party’s candidate for the November election is selected at a gathering of party representatives. The person who gets the majority of their votes is considered the nominee to face the other party in the general election. The Democratic convention will be held in Denver on August 25-28 and Republicans gather in Minneapolis-St. Paul on September 1-4.

DELEGATES - They are the ones who attend the conventions and select the winner. They are selected to represent all 50 states and the U.S. territories.

PLEDGED DELEGATES - Delegates committed to voting for a certain candidate at least through the first ballot at the nominating convention. Their numbers are based on how many votes that candidate got in a primary or caucus.

SUPER DELEGATES - A certain number of delegates at the conventions are set aside to be members of Congress, elected state officers and other leading party officials. They are not picked by primary or caucus and not committed to any particular candidate, so they can back anyone they like.

PRIMARY - The manner in which many delegates are selected state by state. Voters cast ballots for a candidate at polling places. Each state has different rules. Many primaries allocate delegates based on the percentage of the vote each candidate gets, although some give all the state’s delegates to the person who ends up on top. Some primaries are limited to party members; others are open to independents and sometimes the other party.

CAUCUS - Another way to pick delegates. This selection process involves party faithful gathering at sites around the state to negotiate and divide the allotted number of convention delegates. The process varies from state to state and can be a tiny meeting of party insiders or big events like those in Iowa, which attract media coverage from around the world.

PRESUMPTIVE NOMINEE - Often a party’s nominee is clear well before the conventions. But the process must be formalized with a vote, so candidates are called presumptive nominees until the convention vote.

SWING STATES - Also known as battleground states, these could go either way in the general election. Some states, like Utah, regularly vote Republican and others, like Massachusetts, regularly vote Democratic. But swing states, like Ohio, are close enough they could vote for either candidate and therefore are major targets for both parties’ campaigns.

ELECTORAL COLLEGE - The president is selected not by popular vote but by an esoteric system known as the Electoral College. Designed by the framers of the U.S. Constitution more than 200 years ago, the college consists of 538 members divided among each state according to its representation in the U.S. Congress, plus three votes for Washington, D.C. So voters actually select a slate pledged to a candidate.

ELECTORAL COLLEGE VOTE - It takes 270 votes in the Electoral College to become president. The presidential candidate who wins the popular vote in a state usually gets all that state’s Electoral College votes. While they are picked by the candidates and generally pledged to that candidate, the Electoral College members can in theory vote for anyone they want.

Writing by David Wiessler; editing by Patricia Zengerle

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