Geoffrey Cowan was interviewed by USC News’ Marc Ballon for Trojan Family Magazine’s Summer 2016 issue. He discussed how primaries have shaped American presidential elections, including drawbacks to the current system and the difficulty in creating third parties in American politics.
About the unexpected nominations of John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama, Cowan said:
“Primaries have sometimes proved that candidates can get popular support, even if there are substantial doubts about their viability. By winning West Virginia, a Protestant state, Kennedy proved that a Catholic could win. That forced the hand of party leaders, including Catholic bosses who had doubted that JFK could be elected. In Reagan’s case, many argued that he was too old to serve as president. Then he ran an extremely vigorous primary campaign that made his age less of an issue. There are a lot of analogies between John F. Kennedy in 1960 and Barack Obama in 2008. Even many African-Americans didn’t think Obama could win and didn’t rally to him until he won the caucuses in Iowa, a heavily white state.”