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Every four years, Americas candidates for president face a dangerous trek. They must navigate a winding road to the White House, where missteps and missed opportunities can send them packing at any time. Along the way: pitched battles for money, press attention and voter support. From the decision to run to the final votes in November, heres a look at the perilous journey:
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KA-CHING! The candidates have to raise cash, lots of it, especially to pay for ads. Those who dont have enough money early usually fall from the pack. Those who do often are viewed as having a better chance at winning.

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Picking a president is like a giant popularity contest. Those who want the job play up their backgrounds (military, civic, business, political) and their ideas (to improve the economy and keep the nation secure). Often, they try to score points by showing off their friends (important people who have endorsed them). In the rst caucus and primary matchups, those who dont catch re with voters, no matter how good their intentions, never get far.

Party bosses used to have a big say in who emerged as the favored candidate. Today, that power lies in the hands of consultants and ad gurus whose decisions can make or break a campaign. President Obama, unopposed in his party, gets to coast through the early rounds. His Republican foes rst must duke it out among themselves.

Dropout cliff is ahead; support from party faithful can help you fly over this obstacle

A few candidates skip Iowa to focus on later states where they think they will do better. The candidates used to be able to gradually build support over the primary season. Now, those who dont show early success could be doomed.
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Television coverage is a BIG deal. There is usually a lot of free exposure on television (about candidates at rallies, talking to voters or even sillier activities such as kissing pigs and ipping pancakes). Then there are ads on radio and TV to help make them a household name. Both can backre if candidates say something that offends voters.

Because the race among the Republicans is heated, the eventual victor must unify the party. Among the ways to do so: Pick one of them to be the vice presidential candidate.

The winner of each party may choose former rivals to help complete the journey

Rest from the long trip, but the tone for the fall campaign must be set here

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These are high-wire acts, where thinking on your feet is crucial. Debates can be dening moments in campaigns.
The final turn begins here; now its an all-out race


The parties use the televised summer conventions to highlight their achievements, connect with voters on issues and try to set the tone of the fall race. Sometimes, speeches go badly or protests dominate the proceedings, and voters get turned off. This summer, the Democrats are meeting in Charlotte, N.C., and the Republicans in Tampa, Fla.

Labor Day kicks off the nal blitz as mud-slinging gets fierce. The campaigns focus on states needed for victory, and the political parties work hard to get out the vote. By Election Day, Nov. 6, its all over but the counting.