Everyone’s talking about “Super Tuesday,” what it means and that it’s such a big deal in this presidential campaign. But why? Here’s a quick explainer. Think of it as a frequently asked questions for Super Tuesday:
What is Super Tuesday? It’s when more states vote and more delegates are at stake than on any other single day in the presidential primary campaign.
Isn’t it also called the SEC Primary? That’s a colloquial term used by some. It refers to the collegiate athletic conference, the Southeastern Conference, known for its powerhouse football teams. Several states holding contests on Super Tuesday have teams that play in the SEC (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas). But many others do not.
When is it? Tuesday, March 1
How many states are actually voting? 13, plus the territory of American Samoa and Democrats Abroad (expatriates who consider themselves Democrats). We will see results in only 12 of those states (11 for Democrats, 11 for Republicans), because Republicans in Wyoming and Colorado begin their caucuses that day but won’t have a presidential preference poll.
Where will we see results? Alabama (R&D), Alaska (R only), American Samoa (D), Arkansas (R&D), Colorado (D), Georgia (R&D), Massachusetts (R&D), Minnesota (R&D), Oklahoma (R&D), Tennessee (R&D), Texas (R&D), Vermont (R&D) and Virginia (R&D), plus Democrats Abroad.
Other contests occurring on March 1, but not producing results: Wyoming (R) and Colorado (R). They are included on our calendar since Republican voters in those states will be starting the voting process that day.
How many delegates are up for grabs? 1,460 (865 for Democrats, 595 for Republicans). For Democrats, there are an additional 150 unpledged delegates, otherwise known as “superdelegates,” in Super Tuesday states. They are free to vote however they want at the national convention this summer. With superdelegates added in, Super Tuesday represents 22 percent of all delegates.
How big is Super Tuesday? For perspective, so far, only about 2 percent of the pledged Democratic delegates and 5 percent of the Republican delegates have been allocated. After Super Tuesday, that will jump to almost a quarter (24 percent) for the Democrats and about 30 percent for the GOP.
That’s not a majority, though: True. But it’s the snowball effect. If Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina were the kids’ snowball that started down the mountain, Super Tuesday is what happens when that snowball hits the steepest part of the slope.
What’s the day with the second most states and delegates? March 15, when five big states vote — Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio. And the system changes. Those carry 1,058 delegates (691 for Democrats, 367 for Republicans). More states start to become winner-take-all. By the end of March, about half of all Democratic delegates (48 percent) and almost two-thirds of Republican delegates (63 percent) will have been allocated.
NPR’s Arnie Seipel contributed to this post.