Q&A: Super Tuesday

Your guide to the GOP contests happening across the US on Tuesday.

Q. Which states are holding GOP primaries or caucuses tomorrow, and how many delegates does each state award?
Caucuses:
Alaska, 27 delegates
Idaho, 32 delegates
North Dakota, 28 delegates

Primaries:
Georgia, 76 delegates
Massachusetts, 41 delegates
Ohio, 66 delegates
Oklahoma, 43 delegates
Tennessee, 58 delegates
Vermont, 17 delegates
Virginia, 49 delegates

Q. How many delegates are up for grabs on Super Tuesday?
437 delegates are in play.

Q. Where do the candidates stand going into tomorrow's primaries and caucuses?
Mitt Romney - 203 delegates
Rick Santorum - 92 delegates
Newt Gingrich - 33 delegates
Ron Paul - 25 delegates

Q. How many delegates are needed to secure the GOP nomination?
1,144 delegates are needed to win the party's nomination.

Q. Why does Super Tuesday matter so much?
Super Tuesday matters for different candidates depending on their position in the delegate count. The longer the GOP nomination process rolls on, the less time the eventual candidate has for the general election election, and for this reason, Mitt Romney hopes a strong showing will all but seal the deal for him

For Rick Santorum, Super Tuesday is an opportunity to catch or overtake Romney in the delegate count, or at least take a large chunk out of Romney's lead. Santorum has been surging over the past month - although he has lost momentum of late - and hopes to continue his charge tomorrow.

For Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, sitting in distant third and fourth place, Super Tuesday, with its hundreds of delegates up for grabs, is an opportunity for both candidates to make upward moves. Candidates distant in the delegate count have historically viewed Super Tuesday as an opportunity to make up serious ground.

Q. Why do so many states (10) choose to have their primaries on the same day?
Early primary states have more sway in determining the nominee than do later ones. Candidates spend enormous amounts of time and money in Iowa - the first caucus - and New Hampshire, the first primary. States after New Hampshire and Iowa have historically had less and less impact the farther into the election process they have voted. Over the last two decades, states have been moving their primaries and caucuses earlier and earlier in order to have more impact on the nominating process.

Super Tuesday is the first real test of a candidate's popularity nationwide, and thus many states choose to hold their primary or caucus on that day, in order to play a part in the electability test.

Q. Mitt Romney and Ron Paul were on ballots on Super Tuesday 2008 (5 February). How did each fare four years ago?
Romney won 7 states (176 delegates). Of the states voting tomorrow, Romney carried Alaska, Massachusetts and North Dakota in 2008.

Paul did not win any contests four years ago.

*John McCain won 9 states (511 delegates) and Mike Huckabee won 5 states (147 delegates)

Q. Which are the key battleground states tomorrow?
Georgia, the state awarding the most delegates, is very much up for grabs. Newt Gingrich was a US House representative from that state 1979 to 1999, and could see a very strong showing there.

Ohio - seminally a battleground state in general elections, particularly in 2004 Kerry versus Bush - will be telling. With the question of general election electability being more and more tossed around, and with the GOP looking to find its best candidate for the November general election, Ohio's primary results will be crucial.

Ron Paul faces only one ballot opponent - Mitt Romney - in Virginia's primary. None of the other candidates collected the 10,000 signatures required to appear on the ballot.

Newt Gingrich could have a strong showing in Tennessee, another of the big southern states that vote tomorrow.

Idaho is one of the most conservative states in the US, and Gingrich and Santorum could both fare well there.

Q. What will the possible results tell us?
Newt Gingrich has pledged to stay in the race until the convention. His results in the more conservative states will tell us how appealing he is to the Conservative Right.

Mitt Romney is no stranger to Super Tuesday, and has to like his position this time around. Tomorrow will tell us whether Romney will be able to hold off charges from his more conservative counterparts and further separate himself from the pack.

Rick Santorum has surged into second place, and his results tomorrow will be crucial. He could emerge atop the delegate leaderboard or could fall well behind Romney. For Santorum, like Gingrich, courting the Conservative Right vote will be crucial.

Ron Paul continues to raise large amounts of cash despite having not won a primary or caucus. The future of his campaign should become clearer after tomorrow's contests.

Q. Which states follow Super Tuesday?
Over the week following Super Tuesday, Kansas, Alabama, Hawaii, Mississippi, the US Virgin Islands and Guam hold caucuses and primaries, with 165 combined delegates up for grabs.

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Donald Trump is the Republican nominee. What now?

So a Clinton-Trump general election is assured – a historically unpopular match-up based on their current favourability ratings.

That’s it. Ted Cruz bowed out of the Republican presidential race last night, effectively handing the nomination to Donald Trump. “From the beginning I’ve said that I would continue on as long as there was a viable path to victory,” Cruz said. “Tonight, I’m sorry to say it appears that path has been foreclosed.”

What foreclosed his path was his sizeable loss to Trump in Indiana. Cruz had bet it all on the Hoosier State, hoping to repeat his previous Midwest victories in Iowa and Wisconsin. He formed a pact with John Kasich, whereby Kasich left the anti-Trump field clear for Cruz in Indiana in return for Cruz not campaigning in Oregon and New Mexico. He announced Carly Fiorina as his vice-presidential nominee last week, hoping the news would give him a late boost.

It didn’t work. Donald Trump won Indiana handily, with 53 per cent of the vote to Cruz’s 37 per cent. Trump won all of the state’s nine congressional districts, and so collected all 57 of the convention delegates on offer. He now has 1,014 delegates bound to him on the convention’s first ballot, plus 34 unbound delegates who’ve said they’ll vote for him (according to Daniel Nichanian’s count).

That leaves Trump needing just 189 more to hit the 1,237 required for the nomination – a number he was very likely to hit in the remaining contests before Cruz dropped out (it’s just 42 per cent of the 445 available), and that he is now certain to achieve. No need to woo more unbound delegates. No contested convention. No scrambling for votes on the second ballot. 

Though Bernie Sanders narrowly won the Democratic primary in Indiana, he’s still 286 pledged delegates short of Hillary Clinton. He isn’t going to win the 65 per cent of remaining delegates he’d need to catch up. Clinton now needs just 183 more delegates to reach the required 2,383. Like Trump, she is certain to reach that target on 7 June when a number of states vote, including the largest: California.

So a Clinton-Trump general election is assured – a historically unpopular match-up based on their current favourability ratings. But while Clinton is viewed favourably by 42 per cent of voters and unfavourably by 55%, Trump is viewed favourably by just 35 per cent and unfavourably by a whopping 61 per cent. In head-to-head polling (which isn’t particularly predictive this far from election day), Clinton leads with 47 per cent to Trump’s 40 per cent. Betting markets make Clinton the heavy favourite, with a 70 per cent chance of winning the presidency in November.

Still, a few questions that remain as we head into the final primaries and towards the party conventions in July: how many Republican officeholders will reluctantly endorse Trump, how many will actively distance themselves from him, and how many will try to remain silent? Will a conservative run as an independent candidate against Trump in the general election? Can Trump really “do presidential” for the next six months, as he boasted recently, and improve on his deep unpopularity?

And on the Democratic side: will Sanders concede gracefully and offer as full-throated an endorsement of Clinton as she did of Barack Obama eight years ago? It was on 7 June 2008 that she told her supporters: “The way to continue our fight now, to accomplish the goals for which we stand is to take our energy, our passion, our strength, and do all we can to help elect Barack Obama, the next president of the United States.” Will we hear something similar from Sanders next month? 

Jonathan Jones writes for the New Statesman on American politics.