The rules of US Constitution specifies that a president must be elected every four years. Candidates must be at least 35 years old and a US citizen born in the USA.
American politicians say the way they elect their president is one of the most open and democratic processes in the world.
But to outsiders it can also be one of the most baffling. The election race in some countries takes just a few weeks, but US presidential candidates undergo a political marathon, negotiating primaries, party conventions and an electoral college system along the way.
The primary is thefirst step in choosing a party's presidential candidate. In most countries, the party picks the candidates. But in US, voters who declare support for one party or another get to choose from the list of candidates. The candidates, campaigning against other members of the same party, must win enough state primaries to give them a majority of delegates at the party convention in the summer.
Some states, such as lowa, use a caucus system rather than primaries to choose their delegates. Whereas in primaries people simply indicate at the ballot box which delegates they support, caucuses (the word derives from an Indian word for a gathering) are more complex and work by selecting delegates through a number of stages.
By the stage of the convention, the party normally knows who has won.
The delegates from each state formally choose their champion to go forward as presidential candidate. The winning candidate also names a vice-presidential running mate. Policies are refined during the campaign. And there is heavy spending on nationwide television publicity, and there are usually televised debates between the candidates. In the final weeks, the contenders typically concentrate their attention on the big so-called "swing states" as they battle it out for the critical electoral college votes. The election takes place on thefirst Tuesday in November and t…

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