The prevailing narrative is that the candidate who comes in first in the balloting wins the primary.
Whether the candidate is seen to be improving or fading is determined by the narrative shaped by the campaign and the media.
Most of the political credit that a candidate gets for an apparent "win" depends on who else is running in that primary and the media expectations of that candidate's performance.
It was the genius of Donald Trump that he was able to create a narrative early on that his opponents were not winners.
The voters' decision-making process, in addition to party loyalty and personal identity, ends up being a choice among the competing candidates' narratives.
Don't be foolish.
Since 1972, national convention delegates have not had to decide who the party's nominees would be.
There are two official actions that parties set out their issue positions in.
The vice presidential candidate is named.
The presidential nominee can choose the vice president.
The choice is usually made to balance the ticket by gender or experience.
In 2008 Barack Obama chose Delaware senator Joe Biden as his running mate, going for an experienced hand with a foreign policy background to shore up his own--at that time relatively thin--record.
Obama's own judgement and decision-making skills were showcased in his pick of Biden.
When John McCain upstaged Obama with his own pick, Alaska governor Sarah Palin, who he felt would bolster his maverick credentials, help him energize his base, and bolster his standing with women, they had barely finished cheering their new nominee.
The choice was wildly popular with religious conservatives and viewed with skepticism by Democrats and media.
Republican party elites were worried about the lack of governing experience on the ticket, so Donald Trump picked Indiana governor Mike Pence.
Hillary Clinton said that her top criterion was someone who could step in and govern if needed.
There is no evidence that the vice presidential choice has an effect on the election.
If nothing else, the caliber of the nominee's choice for vice president is an indication of the kind of appointments the nominee would make if elected.
A cascade of bad news stories about her soon engulfed the McCain campaign, despite the fact that 20 percent more of the public had more positive than negative feelings for her.
By the time of the election, her negatives were 7 percent higher than her positives.
On the campaign, it was said that McCain could not have followed his slogan of "putting country first" with such a selection.
The nominee usually gets a "convention boost" in the pre election polls.
The media coverage of the carefully orchestrated party harmony, the enthusiasm of party supporters, and even the staged theatrics seem to have a positive impact on viewers.
The result is that candidates usually see a rise in the polls after the convention.
McCain's bounce was slightly larger than that of Obama's.
After McCain's convention, he was in the lead in the polls, but the economic crisis and the negative publicity surrounding him put Obama back in the lead.
Romney gained a small boost after the 2012 convention, but it was lost in the larger bounce for Obama after the Democratic convention.
In 2016 Hillary Clinton's bounce was higher and lasted longer than Donald Trump's, in part because of Trump's lackluster convention and his self-inflicted damage in taking on a Gold Star father who spoke at the Democratic National Convention.
The polls were back to their preconvention level within a month.
After the candidates are nominated in late summer, there is a short break for the public before the fall campaign.
The goal of both sides is to get supporters to vote for their candidate.
Most voters will usually support their party's candidate, but they need to be motivated by the campaign to vote.
A third of the electorate who have not made up their minds at the start of the campaign are open to persuasion by either side.
The general election strategy for both parties is different than the one used to win a primary election.
To win the general election, the campaigns move away from the ideological tone used to motivate the party faithful in the primaries and run to the middle by making less ideological appeals.
Since the second George W. Bush campaign, there have been fewer citizens in the middle who are more likely to vote.
Staying with more ideological appeals can help candidates avoid being charged with "flip-flops" on the issues.
There are people in the representatives chamber.
The votes are counted during a joint session of Congress, but the Electoral College votes do not always match the popular vote.
In the general campaign, each side tries to get its message across to the other side so that they can define the choice in terms that give their candidate the advantage.
This massive effort to influence the information to which citizens are exposed requires a clear strategy, which begins with a plan for winning the states where the candidate will be competitive.
Donald Trump looked like he was inventing the rules while Hillary Clinton ran a professional effort.
The white working-class anger in traditionally blue states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Ohio that gave Trump a thin edge in those states was missed by the Clinton campaign.