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What Is a Presidential Election?

2024 Edition

Part of What Was?

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This revised edition (updated for the 2024 election) explains American presidential campaigns and includes stickers, activities, and a color-your-own Electoral Map!

Who can run for president? What are the differences between America's two major political parties? Is the Electoral College really a college?

The newly updated What Is a Presidential Election? answers these questions and many, many more. From stump speeches to campaign slogans, debates to nominating conventions, and finally to Election Night and Inauguration Day, readers will learn all about what it takes to run for--and win--the most powerful job on earth.

Activities throughout prompt readers to think about the issues they care most about and consider what makes a good president, sparking discussion with friends and family. Includes a sheet of presidential bobblehead stickers and a color-your-own Electoral Map for the upcoming 2024 election!


* This audiobook edition includes a downloadable PDF that contains a map of the United States from the book.
What Is a Presidential Election?

Every four years, the people of the United States of America choose a president to lead the country. All citizens who are eighteen or older may vote in the election.


Serving as the president of the United States is probably the hardest job in government. Often called the “leader of the free world,” the president has many powers, including being Commander in Chief—that means head of all branches of the US military. The president also decides whether to approve laws that have been passed by Congress.

The president makes decisions that can affect the lives of billions of people around the world—for example, deciding whether the United States will join in worldwide agreements on important issues such as the environment.

The 2024 presidential election is under way. Maybe you are keeping up with it by following the news. Maybe you’ve heard your parents or other family members talking about it.

President Joseph R. Biden, a Democrat, is running for reelection. Former president Donald J. Trump is running as a Republican candidate. The two men will once again face off with the hope of winning the presidency. On November 5, 2024, the American people will decide whom to send to the White House.
 
Chapter 1
Checks and Balances

Sure, the president is very powerful. But the president doesn’t hold all the power.


In the United States, there are three branches of government. Each branch makes sure the other two aren’t overstepping their use of power. This is known as a system of “checks and balances.”

The president and their advisors make up the executive branch.

Congress makes up the legislative branch. Congress includes the Senate—with two senators from every state—and the House of Representatives. The number of representatives a state has depends on how many people live there.

It is Congress who passes national laws—laws that all states must obey.

The third branch of our government is the judicial branch. It’s made up of all the courts in the country. The US Supreme Court is the highest court in the land. There are nine justices (judges) on the Supreme Court who serve for life, or until they choose to retire. That means there aren’t openings very often.

Who gets to select judges to sit on the Supreme Court and other federal courts? The president does.

But the Senate votes on whether to confirm those judges. If they don’t give their approval, the president has to nominate someone else. During his first term in office, President Trump appointed three justices. President Joe Biden appointed a new justice in 2022.
 
Chapter 2
To Run or Not to Run?

Why does someone run for president? For lots of reasons!


One person might see the need for many big changes—­changes in how much people pay in taxes, changes to protect the environment, changes in how people get health care. Another person might want to keep things the way they are or even return the country to a time they think was better.

There’s one thing, however, they all have in common—­they each believe that they are the best person to improve the lives of US citizens. That sure takes a lot of confidence!

More than 250 million US citizens will be eligible to vote in the 2024 election. So people hoping to become president have a lot of voters to convince!

Some presidential candidates may already be well-­known to the public. Maybe they are current or former senators or governors who have been in the news for years. Joe Biden had been both a senator from Delaware and vice president under Barack Obama before he decided to run for president in the 2020 election. Often a vice president will run for president once the president they served with can’t run again.

If the president resigns, dies in office, or becomes so sick they can’t carry on the job anymore, the vice president becomes president. Because of this, the vice president—­also known as the “VP” or “veep”—­is sometimes jokingly referred to as the “president in waiting.”

It is true that for some vice presidents, the job has been little more than a title. Others, however, have had strong influence in the executive branch. They have helped make important decisions and provided presidents with advice and assistance.

The vice president is also the president of the Senate. There are one hundred members of the US Senate. If a vote comes to a 50–­50 tie, the veep casts the deciding vote.

Occasionally, a presidential candidate has never been in politics before. Ulysses S. Grant was a military general who had never held elected office. Donald Trump was a businessman and reality TV star.

Some candidates—­even those already in politics—­are mostly unknown to the public until they declare they’re running. For example, in the 2020 race, current US secretary of transportation Pete Buttigieg had been the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and Tulsi Gabbard was a US representative in Congress from Hawaii. Many Americans did not know their names before the early Democratic debates in the 2020 race.

Before entering the race, many presidential hopefuls will form what is called an “exploratory committee.” During this time, they will test the waters by traveling around the country to talk (and listen) to people about different issues and to let the public get to know them. The exploratory committee also begins raising money in case the person decides to run.

The easiest way to reach out to the public is through social media, posting opinions in real time based on the news of the day. The candidates will also appear on TV, usually on news programs and late-­night or daytime talk shows.

Cable news channels like CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC devote much of their time to covering the race even in its very early stages. Pundits (political experts) will appear on these networks to promote their candidates and say what they believe is wrong with the other political party.

Even presidents must campaign if they want a second term. For instance, Donald Trump was the president in 2020. That meant he was the incumbent. He campaigned for a second term. (Presidents can only be elected to two four-­year terms.) But Joe Biden defeated him, winning the 2020 election.

Incumbents enjoy some big advantages in an election. To begin with, they are already well-­known to the public. The current president also has an easier time raising money for the campaign. They take credit for the positive things that are happening in the country. And think of all of the free publicity they get simply from being in the news every single
day.

A president is not guaranteed the nomination, however. In 1856, Democrats chose James Buchanan as their candidate over the current president, Franklin Pierce. And sometimes a president—­for example, Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968—­decides not to run again.
Douglas Yacka is a children's book author living in New York City. View titles by Douglas Yacka
Who HQ is your headquarters for history. The Who HQ team is always working to provide simple and clear answers to some of our biggest questions. From Who Was George Washington? to Who Is Michelle Obama?, and What Was the Battle of Gettysburg? to Where Is the Great Barrier Reef?, we strive to give you all the facts. Visit us at WhoHQ.com View titles by Who HQ

About

This revised edition (updated for the 2024 election) explains American presidential campaigns and includes stickers, activities, and a color-your-own Electoral Map!

Who can run for president? What are the differences between America's two major political parties? Is the Electoral College really a college?

The newly updated What Is a Presidential Election? answers these questions and many, many more. From stump speeches to campaign slogans, debates to nominating conventions, and finally to Election Night and Inauguration Day, readers will learn all about what it takes to run for--and win--the most powerful job on earth.

Activities throughout prompt readers to think about the issues they care most about and consider what makes a good president, sparking discussion with friends and family. Includes a sheet of presidential bobblehead stickers and a color-your-own Electoral Map for the upcoming 2024 election!


* This audiobook edition includes a downloadable PDF that contains a map of the United States from the book.

Excerpt

What Is a Presidential Election?

Every four years, the people of the United States of America choose a president to lead the country. All citizens who are eighteen or older may vote in the election.


Serving as the president of the United States is probably the hardest job in government. Often called the “leader of the free world,” the president has many powers, including being Commander in Chief—that means head of all branches of the US military. The president also decides whether to approve laws that have been passed by Congress.

The president makes decisions that can affect the lives of billions of people around the world—for example, deciding whether the United States will join in worldwide agreements on important issues such as the environment.

The 2024 presidential election is under way. Maybe you are keeping up with it by following the news. Maybe you’ve heard your parents or other family members talking about it.

President Joseph R. Biden, a Democrat, is running for reelection. Former president Donald J. Trump is running as a Republican candidate. The two men will once again face off with the hope of winning the presidency. On November 5, 2024, the American people will decide whom to send to the White House.
 
Chapter 1
Checks and Balances

Sure, the president is very powerful. But the president doesn’t hold all the power.


In the United States, there are three branches of government. Each branch makes sure the other two aren’t overstepping their use of power. This is known as a system of “checks and balances.”

The president and their advisors make up the executive branch.

Congress makes up the legislative branch. Congress includes the Senate—with two senators from every state—and the House of Representatives. The number of representatives a state has depends on how many people live there.

It is Congress who passes national laws—laws that all states must obey.

The third branch of our government is the judicial branch. It’s made up of all the courts in the country. The US Supreme Court is the highest court in the land. There are nine justices (judges) on the Supreme Court who serve for life, or until they choose to retire. That means there aren’t openings very often.

Who gets to select judges to sit on the Supreme Court and other federal courts? The president does.

But the Senate votes on whether to confirm those judges. If they don’t give their approval, the president has to nominate someone else. During his first term in office, President Trump appointed three justices. President Joe Biden appointed a new justice in 2022.
 
Chapter 2
To Run or Not to Run?

Why does someone run for president? For lots of reasons!


One person might see the need for many big changes—­changes in how much people pay in taxes, changes to protect the environment, changes in how people get health care. Another person might want to keep things the way they are or even return the country to a time they think was better.

There’s one thing, however, they all have in common—­they each believe that they are the best person to improve the lives of US citizens. That sure takes a lot of confidence!

More than 250 million US citizens will be eligible to vote in the 2024 election. So people hoping to become president have a lot of voters to convince!

Some presidential candidates may already be well-­known to the public. Maybe they are current or former senators or governors who have been in the news for years. Joe Biden had been both a senator from Delaware and vice president under Barack Obama before he decided to run for president in the 2020 election. Often a vice president will run for president once the president they served with can’t run again.

If the president resigns, dies in office, or becomes so sick they can’t carry on the job anymore, the vice president becomes president. Because of this, the vice president—­also known as the “VP” or “veep”—­is sometimes jokingly referred to as the “president in waiting.”

It is true that for some vice presidents, the job has been little more than a title. Others, however, have had strong influence in the executive branch. They have helped make important decisions and provided presidents with advice and assistance.

The vice president is also the president of the Senate. There are one hundred members of the US Senate. If a vote comes to a 50–­50 tie, the veep casts the deciding vote.

Occasionally, a presidential candidate has never been in politics before. Ulysses S. Grant was a military general who had never held elected office. Donald Trump was a businessman and reality TV star.

Some candidates—­even those already in politics—­are mostly unknown to the public until they declare they’re running. For example, in the 2020 race, current US secretary of transportation Pete Buttigieg had been the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and Tulsi Gabbard was a US representative in Congress from Hawaii. Many Americans did not know their names before the early Democratic debates in the 2020 race.

Before entering the race, many presidential hopefuls will form what is called an “exploratory committee.” During this time, they will test the waters by traveling around the country to talk (and listen) to people about different issues and to let the public get to know them. The exploratory committee also begins raising money in case the person decides to run.

The easiest way to reach out to the public is through social media, posting opinions in real time based on the news of the day. The candidates will also appear on TV, usually on news programs and late-­night or daytime talk shows.

Cable news channels like CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC devote much of their time to covering the race even in its very early stages. Pundits (political experts) will appear on these networks to promote their candidates and say what they believe is wrong with the other political party.

Even presidents must campaign if they want a second term. For instance, Donald Trump was the president in 2020. That meant he was the incumbent. He campaigned for a second term. (Presidents can only be elected to two four-­year terms.) But Joe Biden defeated him, winning the 2020 election.

Incumbents enjoy some big advantages in an election. To begin with, they are already well-­known to the public. The current president also has an easier time raising money for the campaign. They take credit for the positive things that are happening in the country. And think of all of the free publicity they get simply from being in the news every single
day.

A president is not guaranteed the nomination, however. In 1856, Democrats chose James Buchanan as their candidate over the current president, Franklin Pierce. And sometimes a president—­for example, Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968—­decides not to run again.

Author

Douglas Yacka is a children's book author living in New York City. View titles by Douglas Yacka
Who HQ is your headquarters for history. The Who HQ team is always working to provide simple and clear answers to some of our biggest questions. From Who Was George Washington? to Who Is Michelle Obama?, and What Was the Battle of Gettysburg? to Where Is the Great Barrier Reef?, we strive to give you all the facts. Visit us at WhoHQ.com View titles by Who HQ