What Is 'Super Tuesday' and What Does It Mean for the 2020 Presidential Race?

There are 15 Democratic contests taking place on Tuesday, with a huge chunk of state delegates up for grabs

All eyes are on so-called “Super Tuesday” this week as Americans look to get the clearest picture yet at what the 2020 presidential election might look like the rest of the year.

While the Democratic Party is still figuring out who it will run against President Donald Trump in the general election later this year, a total of 14 states will hold their primary contests in hopes of narrowing down the list of Democratic candidates vying for the chance to run against the president in November.

In a complicated and drawn-out electorate process, “Super Tuesday” is one of the most pivotal dates in the election calendar. Here’s how it works and what it could mean for the 2020 presidential race.

What Is ‘Super Tuesday’?

It is the day in which the most total states will host their presidential primaries at once. While it’s a foregone conclusion the Republican Party will nominate incumbent President Trump to run for re-election as their candidate, the Democratic Party has spent more than a year whittling down its list of candidates to choose who its party will run against Trump in the general election.

A total of 15 Democratic contests will be decided on Tuesday, including 14 states and a caucus in American Samoa.

These states will be voting on Tuesday: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia.

A candidate needs a minimum of 1,991 delegates to win the Democratic Party’s nomination come July and more than 1,300 of those delegates are up for grabs on “Super Tuesday.”

With 15 contests happening on one day, “Super Tuesday” offers the biggest sample size of voters so far in the election.

While there have been four previous contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina, “Super Tuesday” is the closest thing the primary season has to a nationwide election — offering candidates the biggest chance at showing they’re an electable candidate across the entire United States.

Democratic presidential candidates (L-R) former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar
From left to right: Democratic candidates Mike Bloomberg, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar at Wednesday’s debate in Las Vegas, Nevada. Mario Tama/Getty

Who Is Running?

The Democratic race got even smaller this week after Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer all dropped out of the race following poor showings in the South Carolina primary, leaving Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Mike Bloomberg in the running.

“Super Tuesday” is particularly notable this year because of Bloomberg. The billionaire candidate and former three-term New York City mayor has taken an unusual approach to the presidential campaign, skipping the first four state primaries after holding off his campaign announcement until last November — nearly a year after most other candidates launched their 2020 bids — and banking his presidential hopes on winning big in the “Super Tuesday” states.

Bloomberg, who is one of the richest men in the world, self-funded a historic nationwide ad blitz with hundreds of millions of dollars while building up name recognition in “Super Tuesday” states. The strategy helped the candidate rapidly climb the national polls, currently sitting third behind Sanders and Biden, according to RealClear Politics.

Other Democratic candidates have denounced Bloomberg, a former Republican, for his massive ad spending. In February, Sanders accused Bloomberg of “trying to buy an election,” according to NBC.

“Super Tuesday” will be the first time we see if Bloomberg’s strategy pays off.

Super Tuesday candidates
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When Will the Results Come In?

Late: According to the schedule of “Super Tuesday” poll closing times, the first state polls will close at 7 p.m. ET and results will start coming in shortly thereafter.

But the biggest contest, in California, won’t end until 11 p.m. ET and the results there won’t be more clear for days, given how long it takes them to count all the votes.

What Will the Results Mean?

The answer is two-fold.

Literally, each time a candidate wins a certain amount of votes in a state primary contest, it means they earn a delegate from that state. In total, a candidate running for to be the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee needs at least 1,991 delegates nationwide to become the party’s nominee in the general election. So, winning a state’s primary wins a candidate a certain number of delegates in that state.

But there’s also superficial “winning” that happens in state primaries, largely tied to candidates claiming momentum victories and spinning the results in a way to show how their campaigns have growing momentum.

With 15 total contests happening on “Super Tuesday,” a win can also mean defying or matching expectations.

For Sanders, who currently leads the Democratic race after wins in New Hampshire and Nevada, that means continuing to win most of the states on “Super Tuesday” and showing that large portions of the country are behind him as the Democratic presidential candidate.

Though, for a candidate like Bloomberg, who has yet to have his name on a primary ballot, winning could mean simply putting up a strong showing and winning a handful of states or coming in close second place, which would show the candidate has some growing support across the country.

Regardless of how a candidate spins it, “Super Tuesday” has the potential for a momentum swing in the 2020 election, either giving new life to a candidate’s campaign or delivering knock-out blow that finally leads to a candidate ending their campaign.

On Sunday, former Democratic hopeful Buttigieg suspended his campaign ahead of the “Super Tuesday” vote and explained his decision to drop out was partly so that the Democratic Party can begin to focus on one of the front-running candidates in the Democrats’ efforts to defeat incumbent President Trump.

“We have a responsibility to consider the effect of remaining in this race any further,” Buttigieg said. “Our goal has always been to help unify Americans to defeat Donald Trump and to win the era for our values. And so we must recognize that at this point in the race the best way to keep faith with those goals and ideals is to step aside and help bring our party and our country together.”

It’s likely to expect other waning candidates may follow suit in suspending their campaigns after the votes are counted on Tuesday.

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