by Marc Schulman

While presidential campaigns traditionally begin after Labor Day, they actual kick off at the nominating conventions held over the summer. Once the conventions have ended, the candidates launch campaigns; some begin even before the conventions. Presidential campaigns are simultaneously national in scope and local in focus. They run separate campaigns in different states, and must win 281 electoral votes in order to be elected President. When candidates win the majority of electoral votes in a state, they gain all the electoral votes of that state. Thus, states with many electoral votes; such as California, Texas and New York; are the sites of aggressive campaigning. Some states are considered likely victories for one or the other candidate, while the others are "up for grabs." These "swing states" usually receive the greatest amount attention from the candidates. These considerations greatly influence candidates as they decide where to engage their efforts and where to limit their spending. Presidential campaigns often seem like chess games, with the players making strategic decisions to try to maximize their chances of winning the required number of votes.