Today as it has been over a hundred years, the candidates that win elections are either a democrat or a republican. So if you are a D and a R is elected, or if your are an R and a D is elected, who is going to represent you in government for that position. Remember, the D and the R are pretty much opposites in their goals, so when your candidate loses, that means your goal is not going to even be worked on by the opposite party winner. Who is going to represent you, until the next election?
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I agree with your second paragraph, and I think that your last paragraph is after the fact. The party knows, and the candidate obeys, so they know even while they are campaigning. That is my opinion.