Your Super Guide to Super Tuesday

BartBarker01
Bart Barker
February 27, 2016

Tuesday will be the biggest primary and caucus day in the 2016 presidential election in terms of the number of delegates to be earned. Fully 24 percent of all Republican delegates and 21 percent of Democratic delegates will be determined on March 1.

A Democratic candidate needs 2,383 of 4,765 delegates to win the nomination, and 1,004 are up for grabs Tuesday. A Republican candidate needs 1,237 of 2,472 delegates, of which 595 will be allocated Tuesday.

Seven of the Super Tuesday states are in the South, an area where Hillary Clinton is expected to be strong. She seems to have won South Carolina delegates 31-12. Bernie Sanders is likely to be strong only in Massachusetts and Vermont. Clinton’s lead won’t be insurmountable after Tuesday, but it will be significant.

Surprisingly, Ted Cruz doesn’t seem to be that far ahead of Donald Trump in Cruz’s home state of Texas, the largest on Tuesday. Trump leads in Georgia, Alabama, Virginia, Oklahoma and Massachusetts, among others.

Super Tuesday background

Super Tuesday began in 1988, after Democrats had lost badly to Ronald Reagan in the 1980 and 1984 landslides. Democrats wanted to give more visibility to moderate Democrats in the South in an effort to avoid ultra-liberal candidates. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that year: the very liberal Michael Dukakis won the nomination but lost badly to George H.W. Bush. Dukakis won only 10 states.

Many of those more moderate Democrats in the South are now Republicans, and many of those states are primarily Republican. But Super Tuesday remains a very important election for both parties.

Delegate allocation

Most of the states involved in Tuesday’s primaries allocate their delegates proportionally, so a second-or third-place candidate can still win some of the delegates. In some cases a candidate needs to reach a minimum threshold of votes to receive any delegates. A Democrat needs at least 15 percent of the vote to get any delegates. The threshold varies by state for Republicans, and in some cases a candidate with more than 50 percent of the vote gets all the delegates.

Fifteen percent of Democratic delegates are unpledged, meaning they don’t have to vote for the candidate chosen by voters in their states. These often are called superdelegates and are the cause of some controversy this year, although the system has been in place since 1988. Clinton narrowly leads in delegates won, 82-63. But she has 453 of the 712 superdelegates; Sanders has only 20 (source: RealClear Politics). Since superdelegates are not pledged they can change their minds up through the convention. But Sanders will have to win a lot more delegates to overcome Clinton’s superdelegates.

Republicans also have unpledged delegates, but they comprise only about 7 percent of the total. And in some states they are expected to vote as the voters did. They have far less influence than the Democrats’ superdelegates.

Delegate counts to date

These numbers include the February 27 South Carolina Democratic primary results (source: RealClear Politics).

Democrats

Candidate

Delegates Won

Superdelegates

Total

Hillary Clinton

82

453

535

Bernie Sanders

63

20

83

Republicans

Candidate

Delegates

Donald Trump

81

Marco Rubio

17

Ted Cruz

17

John Kasich

6

Ben Carson

4

Super Tuesday polls

RealClear Politics tracks numerous polls, both nationally and by state. Here are their averages for the Tuesday states (averages are not available for all states due to limited polling):

Republicans

State

Delegates

Trump

Rubio

Cruz

Kasich

Carson

Spread

Texas 172 26.8% 18.2% 34.0% 7.0% 5.4% Cruz +7.2%
Georgia 76 37.0 21.3 18.3 7.7 8.0 Trump +15.7
Alabama 50 35.5 17.5 15.5 5.0 11.5 Trump +18.0
Virginia 49 35.7 20.7 16.0 7.3 7.3 Trump +15.0
Oklahoma 43 29.5 21.0 22.5 4.0 6.0 Trump +7.0
Massachusetts 42 44.3 18.3 9.7 16.3 3.7 Trump +26.0
Arkansas 40 Close among Cruz, Trump and Rubio.
Tennessee 40 Close between Trump and Carson.
Minnesota 38 22.0 19.5 12.5 15.0 Trump +2.5
Colorado 37 Carson leads by a few points.
Alaska 28 Trump and Cruz lead.
Vermont 16 Trump leads.

Democrats

State

Delegates

Clinton

Sanders

Spread

Texas 252 59.9% 33.6% Clinton +26.3%
Georgia 116 62.8 26.0 Clinton +36.8
Massachusetts 116 45.7 46.3 Sanders +0.6
Virginia 110 54.5 35 Clinton +19.5
Minnesota 93 54.5 28.5 Clinton +26.0
Colorado 79 Clinton leads strongly.
Tennessee 76 53.0 30.0 Clinton +23.0
Alabama 60 59 31 Clinton +28
Oklahoma 42 45.0 36.0 Clinton +9.0
Arkansas 37 57.0 28.5 Clinton +28.5
Vermont 26 9.5 84.5 Sanders +75.0

Super Tuesday delegate breakdown by state

Texas and Georgia have the most delegates in both parties. Here is a breakdown (source: Ballotpedia):

Republicans

State

Election type Open or closed Pledged delegates Unpledged delegates Total delegates
Texas Primary Open              155              155
Georgia Primary Open                76                76
Tennessee Primary Open               58                58
Alabama Primary Open                50                50
Virginia Primary Open                49                49
Oklahoma Primary Closed                43                43
Massachusetts Primary Mixed                42             42
Arkansas Primary Open                40                40
Minnesota Caucuses Open                38                38
Colorado Caucuses Closed                34                  3                37
Wyoming Caucuses Closed                26                 3                29
Alaska Caucuses Closed                28                28
Vermont Primary Open                16                16
Total            655                6            661

Democrats

State

Election type Open or closed Pledged delegates Unpledged delegates Total delegates
Texas Primary Open              222                29              251
Georgia Primary Open              102                15              117
Massachusetts Primary Mixed                91                25              116
Virginia Primary Open                95                14              109
Minnesota Caucuses Open                77                16                93
Colorado Caucuses Closed                66                12                78
Tennessee Primary Open                67                  8                75
Alabama Primary Open                53                  7                60
South Carolina Primary Open                53                  6                59
Iowa Caucuses Closed                44                  8                52
Nevada Caucuses Closed                35                  8                43
Oklahoma Primary Closed                38                  4                42
Arkansas Primary Open                32                  5               37
New Hampshire Primary Mixed                24                  8                32
Vermont Primary Open                16                10                26
American Samoa Caucuses Open                  6                  5                11
Total          1,021            180          1,201

The totals do not quite equal those at the top of the article because not all states will allocate their delegates through their Super Tuesday events. For example, Republicans in Colorado aren’t having a presidential preference poll this year. The delegates vote for the candidates they chose when filing to become delegates.

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