Many American sports fans look forward to Super Bowl Sunday. But Americans who follow politics wait for “Super Tuesday.” What is Super Tuesday, and why is it important?
The major U.S. political parties — Democratic and Republican — select their presidential and vice presidential candidates at a party convention to which each state (and several U.S. territories) sends delegates. During February 2016, four states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — are selecting delegates.
But on March 1, Super Tuesday, 14 U.S. states and territories will hold primaries and caucuses to choose more than 1,000 Democratic and 600 Republican delegates pledged to one or another of the presidential candidates. Since a Democrat needs 2,382 delegates, and a Republican 1,237, to capture the party nomination, Super Tuesday states play a big role in choosing each party’s standard-bearer.
States banding together
Why do some states choose to hold their primaries and caucuses on the same day? To maximize their influence. Many of the Super Tuesday states and territories have small populations and few delegates. By holding their contests on the same day, they can collectively have a greater effect on selecting the next U.S. president.
Another factor is that many Super Tuesday states have similar concerns on national issues. Many of them are in the South — so many that the media has also called March 1 the “SEC Primary,” after the Southeastern Conference in U.S. college athletics.
“The idea is you have states who have similar interests go at the same time. That may have a larger effect on the nomination process,” University of Arkansas Professor Andrew Dowdle told local news channel KNWA.
Super Tuesday also serves to narrow the field of contenders. A number of candidates who perform poorly in those 14 state contests can be expected to drop out of the race, either because they’ve concluded they can’t win, or because they now will find it more difficult to attract volunteers, raise campaign funds or attract media coverage.