Super Tuesday: Elections across the Country

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Super Tuesday is the generally understood name for a day in February or March of an American presidential election year on which a large number of states have primary elections or caucuses. Presidential candidates achieve the nomination of their party by achieving the support of a majority of delegates on offer, and Super Tuesday is the day on which the most delegates are available.

March 1 is the 2016 date for Super Tuesday. On that day, these 14 states will have primaries or caucuses:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska (R)
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Georgia
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Wyoming.

Many historians assert that the title of Super Tuesday has been used since 1976. On May 25 of that year, six states had primaries or caucuses. Eventual Democratic nominee Jimmy Carter cemented his front-runner status by winning four of those six states, after having won the primaries or caucuses in nearly all of the states up to that time. Incumbent President Gerald Ford and Republican challenger Ronald Reagan split wins in those six states, illustrating the tough campaing that Ford fought to secure his party’s nomination.

In 1980, the closest thing to Super Tuesday occurred on June 3, when eight states had primaries or caucuses. Incumbent President Carter won three states, and his primary challenger, Ted Kennedy, won the other five. The Democratic nominating process went down to the wire, with Kennedy conceding only at the national convention. On the Republican side, Reagan had long been crowned the nominee by the time June 3 rolled around; he won all six elections anyway.

During the 1984 presidential campaign, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island had their primaries on Tuesday, March 13. This day was dubbed Super Tuesday. The front-runners, Gary Hart and eventual nominee Walter Mondale, split victories, with Hart winning three states.

On March 8, 1988, nine southern states had their primary elections on the same day. Those states were Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. The Democratic Party, according to some sources, had wanted a southern candidate to gain prominence and so scheduled the primaries in their states all on the same day. In practice, however, the then-candidates (including Tennesee native Al Gore and eventual nominee Michael Dukakis) split the vote in those states. As a result, most of those states from 1996 to 2004 scheduled their primaries a week after Super Tuesday, leading many media outlets to refer to the day as “Southern Tuesday.”

March 10 was the 1992 date for Super Tuesday. Bill Clinton won several large-state primaries on that day, reinvigorating a candidacy that had lost support after flagging during the first few primary elections.

Super Tuesday in 1996 was March 12. President Bill Clinton was running for re-election and was unopposed. Republican candidate Bob Dole won all of his party’s Super Tuesday primaries and achieved his party’s nomination.

March 7 was the 2000 date for Super Tuesday, with 16 states having primaries or caucuses. Up to that time, it was the most states having elections on the same day. In that year, a full 81 percent of Democratic delegates and 18 percent of Republicans were on offer. On that day, eventual nominees George Bush and Al Gore won most of the delegates, cementing their status as front-runners for their respective parties’ nominations.

Several states in 2004 moved their primaries or caucuses earlier than Super Tuesday (which was March 2 that year). The resulting label for those seven states was that February 3 was called “Mini-Tuesday.” The result of all that was that John Kerry emerged as the eventual Democratic nominee to challenge incumbent President George W. Bush.

The 2008 date for Super Tuesday was Feb. 5. On that day, 24 states had primaries or caucuses. On offer on that day were 52 percent of all pledged Democratic Party delegates and 49 percent of all Republican Party delegates. Eventual nominee Barack Obama won 13 states, and former First Lady Hillary Clinton won 10. Clinton had been considered the front-runner for the nomination, but Obama’s results on Super Tuesday began a string of victories that convinced more and more of the party faithful to support his candidacy.

In 2012, President Barack Obama was unopposed on the Democratic side. Ten states on that March 6, 2012, offered Republican candidates 18 percent of the total. Eventual nominee Mitt Romney won six of those states and got half of the 419 delegates on offer.

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