Ten terms you should add to your political vocabulary in 2016

Erik Petrovich

Getting even a decent grasp of what’s going on during a heated election year is difficult even for those ingrained in campaign coverage. In order to begin to understand how the party nomination and election process works, it is important to know your political vocabulary. 

Town Hall: A very informal meeting where the audience usually has a chance to ask whoever is hosting the Town Hall direct questions. Republican candidate John Kasich faced opposition from his supporters at a Town Hall meeting in Ohio after he said women “came out of the kitchen” to support his campaign.


Caucus: A system where people gather at a location and separate into groups to vote based on preference. Voting is not anonymous in the Democrat and Republican party caucuses — in order to cast a vote, caucus-goers must go to a specific area of a room to be counted, allowing them to see how others in the same room voted.

Primary: A ballot voting system. Voters go to a primary voting site or are mailed a ballot to cast their vote for their preferred presidential nominee. Voting is anonymous, and no one can try to rally support for their candidate during the event, whereas during a caucus, anything goes until voting takes place.

Super Delegate: Every Democratic party governor, congressman, the president, the vice president, members of the Democratic National Committee (more on that further down) and other party officials make up for 30 percent of the total delegates needed to win the party’s nomination for the presidency.

Super delegates do not have to vote according each state’s caucuses or primaries and can declare their preference for whomever they please without public input. There are 712 super delegates in the Democratic Party establishment and 4,051 delegates who will vote according to the results of each state’s caucus and primary results.

The Republican Party does not have a super delegate system.

Super Tuesday: An informal term for March 1, 2016, a day when 12 states, American Samoa and Democrats not able to vote in the U.S. will vote to apportion more delegates to the GOP and Democratic Party candidates than any other day. The results of March 1 more often than not help to predict the future of the election cycle and can be a stopping point for candidates with low support.

Points and Percentages: A percentage and a point are almost exactly the same. Polls and state voting results are reported as a percentage, and sometimes referred to as points instead. For example, Donald Trump is polling at 39 percent of likely Nevada Republican voters, whereas Ted Cruz is polling at 23 percent. This puts Trump at a 16-point lead over the senator.

Party National Convention: After every state has reported the results of their caucuses or primaries, delegates will attend a National Convention to put forth their vote for who they think would best represent the party in the general election. Most delegates must vote according to the results from their precinct, but super delegates are influential in determining the outcome of the National Conventions and may support whomever they please.

Operative: A higher-up donor, member or supporter of a party whose influence is often just outside of public view. A great example of a party operative is Sen. Harry Reid, whose endorsement and work before the Nevada Democratic caucuses helped propel Clinton to victory, according to some political pundits.

And, on that note…


Pundit: An analyst or someone deeply ingrained in the political process whose views or opinions often reflect what is going on during the election. In Nevada, preeminent political analyst Jon Ralston’s views and analysis are trusted more than many media outlets, some of whom have quoted him or referred to him for coverage.

Staffer: A member of the higher-up staff in a campaign. This includes national campaign directors, state field organizers and personal advisers. These are not people who support a candidate or even work at a local level — just those who were directly hired by the candidate to help run their campaign.

Collegian Assistant News Editor Erik Petrovich can be reached at news@collegian.com or via Twitter @EAPetrovich.