WTF Happened on Super Tuesday, Explained
Any candidate who can take primary elections in both Massachusetts and Alabama — the yin and the yang of American political life — is probably a lock for their party’s nomination.
Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton scored that rare feat on Super Tuesday, storming to big delegate victories.
The day nonetheless gave each of the major candidates important victories to crow about: Ted Cruz won Texas. Marco Rubio took Minnesota. Sanders scored Colorado. Super Tuesday turned out to be a wild ride.
Here’s everything you need to know.
Back up a second. Why do we have “Super Tuesday,” again?
Both parties have structured their nominating calendars to stage a pivotal multi-state contest in early March — seeking to amplify the momentum of candidates who do well in the four early-voting states.
Here’s the logic: A contested primary season can leave candidates battered and cash-poor heading into the general election. In theory, the parties want Super Tuesday to vault an early frontrunner into the status of presumptive nominee — leaving plenty of time for that candidate to retool financing and messaging for the general election.
The Democratic race is working as intended: Clinton is now beginning to separate from Sanders. But the Super Tuesday formula is backfiring on the establishment GOP, big time: The vulgar, race-baiting Trump has jumped out to a commanding delegate lead, and the poobahs of the Grand Old Party have little recourse.
Which states voted?
Super Tuesday is sometimes called the SEC primary because it mirrors many of the states from the Deep South’s top athletic conference. Below the Mason-Dixon line, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia all voted Tuesday. The day’s northern contests included Alaska, Massachusetts and Vermont.
With so many blood-red states voting, Super Tuesday is a solid reflection of the will of the Republican base. On the flip side, the contest gives the South an outsize role in selecting the Democratic nominee. The Democrats attempt to correct for this, slightly, by postponing Alaska and including the swing state of Colorado.
What was at stake?
Bragging rights and claims to momentum, of course. But the important figure is the delegate jackpot. Across Super Tuesday, Republicans had 661 delegates up for grabs — more than half of the 1,237 majority needed to lock up the nomination. For Democrats, 865 delegates were at stake — more than a third of the necessary 2,382.
Donald Trump won big — again?
He did, but not quite as yuge has he might have hoped. The billionaire frontrunner took seven of the 11 Republican contests, sweeping the Northeast and the Deep South, but losing Texas to home-state senator Ted Cruz, who also took neighboring Oklahoma, and scored a late victory in Alaska. Trump also ceded Minnesota to Marco Rubio, who scored his first actual victory of 2016.
At a proto-presidential press conference in Florida — flanked by American flags and a brooding New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (who looked like he’d rather be passing kidney stones than campaigning for Trump) — the Donald struck a low-key, general-election tone calling himself a “common-sense conservative.”
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