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I found the phrase, “run on a ticket with a man” in the today’s (December 9) Washington Post article titled, “Gingrich run could bring up bad memories for former colleagues.” The article begins with the following sentence:

“If former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is the Republican presidential nominee, many members of Congress will run on a ticket with a man they worked with two decades ago. Judging by some of their public comments, not all of them would necessarily welcome the idea.”

As I’m uncertain of the meaning of “run on a ticket with a man,” I consulted OED, Cambridge, and M-W online dictionary.

Only Cambridge Dictionary registered ‘run on sth.’ as the idiom accompanied with the explanation; ‘If a machine runs on a particular type of power, it uses that power to work; e.g. Some calculators run on solar power, though I don’t think this definition is applicable to the usage of the phrase in the above quote.

Neither OED nor M-E registers “run on ticket” nor “run on something.”

However, GoogleNgram shows the usage trend of “run on a ticket.” The phrase emerged in circ.1870, and its usage has been dwindling after peaking around 1930.

What does "run on a ticket with somebody” mean? Is it a well-received English idiom?

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It's an Americanism, very much associated with pairs of President/Vice-President candidates. If it's a good pairing (one where each candidate attracts a different sector of the voting public, but the two types of supporter aren't incompatible), it's called a dream ticket. The "run on..." part of it is just idiomatic, as with "run for office". –  FumbleFingers Dec 9 '11 at 23:11
    
@FumbleFingers. I was thoughtless. Though the article refers to Presidential race, it didn’t come to my mind at all. My confusion started from that I took ‘run on’ as ‘operate’ (business), and was totally oblivious of that ‘ticket’ has a meaning of a slated electoral candidate that I should have seen many times in news pieces of 2008 U.S. Presidential election. –  Yoichi Oishi Dec 10 '11 at 1:42
    
@FumbleFingers, that's actually quite wrong. Since a President/Vice-President can only have two people on it, this cannot be the meaning for the sentence provided: "many members of Congress will run on a ticket with [Gingrich]". The ticket here is the party ticket; e.g., a ballot with all party candidates lined up on one side--which in actuality may just be metaphorical. Lex below has got it right. –  Merk Oct 19 '12 at 20:31
    
@Merk: I think you're being too literal-minded there. OP's cited usage is indeed "metaphorical". The Congressmen being referred to won't actually have their names on the same ballot slip as Gingrich - even though in their (and some voters') minds, a vote for one implies a vote for the other. Any supposed difference between a real-world "party ticket" and "President/VP shared ballot ticket" is a level of detail that doesn't concern us when we're just looking at a metaphorical usage anyway. –  FumbleFingers Oct 19 '12 at 20:55
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1 Answer 1

up vote 8 down vote accepted

It's not really an idiom, but a combination of two context-specific definitions of "run" and "ticket".

Here, run means (M-W)

4b: to enter into an election contest

and ticket means (M-W)

3: a list of candidates for nomination or election

Both of these are commonly used and readily understood in the context of political writing. In addition, a google search for run on the Republican ticket, for example, gives over 600,000 results - so although "run on a ticket" is not a stock phrase or idiom per se, the two words are often seen together in the above senses.

Thus,

many members of Congress will run on a ticket with a man they worked with two decades ago

means that these Congress members and Newt Gingrich will be part of the same group of politicians selected by their party to compete in the upcoming election.

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Correct, except for last sentence. "On a ticket with" means "part of the slate proposed for various offices, by one party"; that is, running together with, not against. –  jwpat7 Dec 9 '11 at 23:44
    
Good point - edited to reflect that. –  alcas Dec 10 '11 at 0:32
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