Date of Award

Fall 2013

Project Type


Program or Major

Political Science

Degree Name

Master of Arts

First Advisor

Dante Scala


This thesis qualitatively examines the personal career outcomes of major presidential primary candidates from 1976-2008. It argues that the primary process fundamentally changed with the introduction of reform in the 1970s. It has continued to evolve into the "spectacle primary," a system whereby mere participation, not necessarily electoral success, can convey manifold benefits to subsequent careers in the public or private sectors. It also finds far less risk in primary participation than conventional wisdom might assume. Therefore, this thesis holds that prospective candidates when weighing a presidential primary bid, should consider these ulterior benefits beyond electoral success and all else being equal, they should decide to enter presidential primary contests.