Obviously it's bad to elect a president that has scandals that could get them impeached, but even having one candidate who appears to have skeletons in the closet encourages other candidates to dig for info in unscrupulous places, dirtying their own hands. It's lose-lose.

Do the major parties have any sort of screening processes before nominations to protect itself against putting forward these kind of candidates? Like do they do digging/background checks and disavow them from the primaries? If they do, how could we end up with so many politicians with scandals? If not, why not?

  • 2
    Wasn't that what the democrats' email scandal was about?
    – user9389
    Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 22:35
  • @notstoreboughtdirt was any of the investigating into the email scandal done by the DNC? I thought that was all Republican backed investigation and FBI.
    – BlackThorn
    Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 22:37
  • Besides, the DNC wikileaks info showed that the DNC was supporting Hillary, and she very clearly had plenty of scandals in her past, some ongoing investigations, etc. Why on earth would they support a candidate that was such an easy target without vetting out these scandals?
    – BlackThorn
    Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 22:39
  • 1
    Clearly the DNC did not consider skeletons a critical selection criteria, and a lot of analysis at the time suggested she had a better than good chance.
    – user9389
    Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 22:57
  • Does the identity of the guy pictured here answer this question, especially in light of all the earlier opposition by party leadership?
    – WBT
    Commented Jul 14, 2017 at 2:45

4 Answers 4


Anyone who is not constitutionally ineligible (that is you are a natural-born citizen and you have not served for 2 terms) can run for President. That's democracy.

US parties don't have any screening processes for candidates; presidential hopefuls can just announce their candidacy and file with the FEC to run for President.

That being said, different states have different rules and criteria to be on the ballot since elections are conducted by states, so one has to be politically active in all states to be on the ballot. (Actual requirements varies between different states.)

There's also the primaries for both the Democratic and Republican parties which is the nomination stage for both parties. This allows voters to choose their candidate to compete in the general election. If a candidate has last scandals and they get nominated by their party, they are still chosen by voters. The voters have a choice to not vote for them.

Candidates are also under the focus of the media, most of the scandals we know are all first reported through the media. If not, most of us won't even know that the scandals exist.


parties can try to block someone from being nominated, against the voters' choice, during their respective conventions.

For the Republican Party, this can be done since convention rules are drawn up before each year's national convention and the party can theoretically modify the existing rules and lift the “binding” obligation, allowing the delegates to vote for anyone they want.

The rule change is a two-part process and Rule 16 is the relevant rule that binds delegates so should it be modified, delegates can be unbound. This was widely discussed and reported last year, especially for the Republican convention and the WSJ published a flowchart on how Trump's nomination could be stopped through the rule change.

Who decides these new rules? It’s a two-part process. Just a few days before the convention, the rules committee—which includes two national delegate representatives from each state and territory, totaling 112—will meet to hammer out any additions or subtractions to the Tampa rules to determine how the Cleveland convention will proceed. Once a majority of committee members approve the new draft, it then goes to the convention floor, where it must win support from a majority of the convention delegates.

As for the Democratic Party, there are super delegates who do have the final say in who to nominate since their votes are not bound. They can vote for someone other than the presumptive nominee and should the number of votes be enough, they can block a the presumptive nominee from clinching the party's nomination.

To conclude, the bottom line still is that we can choose not to vote for them.

  • I wasn't really expecting or asking for a guide to how presidential elections work. And both answers so far state that we get info about scandals from the media. I feel that is somewhat obvious. Those scandals hurt the parties that are associated with them though, so I'm asking if there is a screening process for any party to protect itself from that. They can disavow any candidate they want to.
    – BlackThorn
    Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 23:06
  • @TBear They don't screen candidates officially since voters should be the ones choosing them, though they may give more support to their preferred candidate behind the scenes.
    – Panda
    Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 23:15
  • This answer can probably be improved by discussing how the nominating conventions could theoretically be used to block someone, at the cost of angering everyone who did vote for that candidate. It was a very hot topic before the Republican convention this last cycle.
    – Bobson
    Commented Jul 14, 2017 at 1:25
  • @TBear people who are thought to be possible candidates would most likely be public figures before (so therefore they would have got some media coverage/research). And even if they were not, becoming a potential candidate or running for the primaries means automatic a lot of media coverage, way before they become candidates.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jul 14, 2017 at 7:54
  • 1
    @TBear I have updated my answer to include how a presumptive nominee could be blocked from being nominated at a party's convention, as per Bobson's suggestion. (Also, thanks Bobson!)
    – Panda
    Commented Jul 14, 2017 at 8:09

Prospective candidates must face several challenges, before winning their party's nomination:

The invisible primary

Running for President is very expensive. The most common way of raising money is from wealthy party donors; so a candidate acceptable to these donors will have an advantage. The endorsements of elected officials, former Presidents, and other power-brokers within a party may also be considered important. This process takes place in the 12 months or so before the first primary voting, and is often known as the invisible primary.

Candidates often drop out at this stage, or soon afterwards, because they have failed to win enough behind-the-scenes support.

The actual primaries

Candidates need to demonstrate popular support, by winning primaries and caucuses across a wide range of states. This is a lengthy and expensive process, and the winning campaign usually has strong organisational and fundraising skills as well as a plausible candidate.

The party convention

The formal nominations for President and Vice President are made at the party convention. The exact rules are complex, and subject to change. In short, delegates with voting rights at the convention are chosen in the primaries. The Democrats also have so-called superdelegates, who are not chosen by primaries, and include members of Congress and party officials. In theory, the nominee does not have to be the one who won the greatest number of delegates in the primaries.

Before development of the modern primary system in the late 1960s, it was common for nominees to be chosen by bargaining among delegates at the convention. In the modern era, the convention vote has usually been little more than a formality. Some Republicans discussed using convention procedures to withhold the nomination from Trump in 2016, but in the end this did not happen.


Historically, the above processes have often screened out weak, fringe, or scandalous candidates. They do not always work as intended:

  • As in any political process, there is scope for human error and unexpected results.

  • Perfect political candidates do not exist; the party is trying to choose the least flawed candidate as its nominee.

  • The party is always working with incomplete information, based on press reports and the actions of the candidates themselves.

For example:

  • Gerald Ford won the Republican nomination in 1976; as the sitting President, he was able to overcome a primary challenge from Ronald Reagan, who in hindsight was a much stronger candidate.

  • Bill Clinton won the Democratic nomination in 1992, despite allegations of extramarital affairs and the likely prospect of a scandal.

  • Barack Obama was nominated in 2008, despite having very little support from the party establishment; much of his funding was made up of small donations raised on the Internet.

  • And of course, Donald Trump won the Republican nomination in 2016, despite history and behaviour which might politely be described as "colorful".

  • "weak, fringe, or scandalous candidates" - Clinton hit the paydirt on 2 out of 3; Trump can be argued on 2 out of 3 easily though which 2 depends on your ideology; so the effectiveness seems rather... dubious.
    – user4012
    Commented Jul 14, 2017 at 15:49

If a candidate is very fringe they can ignore them, not include them in primary debates, not include them when telling the press about their candidates (implying others are not real candidates), etc. But in the end if they have the means and organisation to get on all 50 ballots and rise a few points in the polls, they have no rules for 'screening' out undesirable candidates other than the above and by talking them down behind the scenes. Most voters consider it undemocratic to have party bosses vet candidates for them.


(somewhat sarcastic) Yes, it is called Free Press.

Seriously, anyone who want to be a candidate for a high level political position will be investigated, checked and rechecked by everyone on all sides.

Anything and everything from unpaid parking tickets to business practices to political and social views will be brought forward and the candidate will have to explain and challenge those things in front of their own members and in front of the public.

I assume each party have their own rules to follow when wanting to be a candidate (must be citizen, no criminal records... ) and when you apply you need to disclose all that.

If the candidate really had skeletons in his closet then he will have to make a hard decision, either expect people to see that those skeletons are not that "bad" and trust him/her to not make those mistakes again.

Or just quit because the candidate does not have enough support now and in the future to continue being a candidate.

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