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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The toxic new right-wing media will outlast Trump even if he’s impeached

Fox News and a network of smaller outlets have created an alternative version of reality. That ecosystem might prove more durable than the US president. 

An early end to Donald Trump’s presidency looks more feasible than at any time in the 117 days since his inauguration.

The New York Times revealed on Tuesday that FBI director James Comey – who was fired by Trump a week ago – wrote a memo recording the President’s request he “let go” an investigation into links between Michael Flynn, Trump’s pick for national security advisor, and Russia.

Already there is talk of impeachment, not least because the crime Trump is accused of - obstructing justice - is the same one that ended Richard Nixon's presidency.

But with a Republican-controlled Congress the impeachment process would be long and fraught, and is only likely to succeed if public opinion, and particularly the opinion of the Republican voters, swings decisively against Trump.

In another era, the rolling coverage of the president's chaotic, incompetent and potentially corrupt administration might have pushed the needle far enough. But many of those Republican voters will make their decision about whether or not to stick with Trump based not on investigative reporting in the NYT or Washington Post, but based on reading a right-wing media ecosystem filled with distortions, distractions and fabrications.

That ecosystem – which spans new and (relatively) old media - will be going into overdrive to protect a president it helped elect, and who in turn has nourished it with praise and access.

On Monday, BuzzFeed’s Charlie Warzel took a forensic look at how a new breed of hyper-partisan right wing sites – what he calls the "Upside Down media" – tried to undermine and discredit claims that Trump disclosed sensitive security information to Russian officials.

The same tactics can already be seen just 24 hours later. Notorious conspiracist site Infowars talks of “saboteurs” and “turncoats” undermining the administration with leaks, mirroring an email from Trump’s campaign team sent late on Tuesday. Newsmax, another right-leaning sight with links to Trump, attacks the source of the story, asking in its web splash “Why did Comey wait so long?”. GatewayPundit, which published several false stories about Hillary Clinton during the election campaign, appears to have ignored the story altogether. 

As Warzel points out, these new sites work in concert with older media, in particular Rupert Murdoch’s ratings-topping cable news channel Fox News.

Fox initially underplayed the Comey memo’s significance, switching later to projecting the story as a media-led attack on Trump. At the time of publication, the Fox homepage led with a splash headlined: “THE SHOW MUST GO ON Lawmakers vow to focus on Trump agenda despite WH controversies.”

Fox acts as a source of validation for the newly established right-wing sites. Once Fox has covered a story, smaller sites can push further and faster, knowing that they aren't going too far from at least one outlet considered respectable and mainstream. If anything should make the UK value the impartiality rules, however imperfect, which govern its broadcast news, it’s Fox’s central role in enabling this toxic mix of misinformation.

These new media sites have another weapon, however. They understand and exploit the way internet platforms - in particular Facebook - are designed to maximise attention. They have found that playing on very human desires for stories that confirm our biases and trigger emotional responses is the best way to build audiences and win fans, and they have little compulsion abusing that knowledge.

This isn’t just a Trump or Fox-related phenomenon. It’s not even just a right-wing one. In both the US and the UK left-wing hyper-partisan sites with a tenuous relationship with the truth have sprung up. They have followed the same playbook, and in most cases the same advertising-based funding model, which has worked so well for the right. Emotive headlines, spun stories, outright fabrications and an insistence that “the corrupt mainstream media won’t report this” work just as well in generating clicks and shares for both ends of the political spectrum.

The main difference between the two political poles is that the right has benefited from an ideologically and temperamentally suited president, and a facilitator in Fox News. 

Of course the combined efforts of this new media and the Fox-led old may still fail. Trump’s recent transgressions appear so severe that they could break through to even his diehard supporters.

But if Trump does fall, the new right wing media ecosystem is unlikely to fall with him. 

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