Super Tuesday Isn’t As Super As It Used To Be

This year's Super Tuesday isn't the most super we've ever seen, but it's still a do-or-die political showdown

(Illustration: R. A. Di Ieso / Vocativ)
Feb 22, 2016 at 5:54 PM ET

Democrats and Republicans are heading to the polls in 13 states on Tuesday, March 1, for the biggest day of the 2016 election season thus far. Caucuses and primaries in take place in the following Super Tuesday states: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Wyoming.

Yet while all eyes are firmly fixed on Super Tuesday and its potential to reshape the election, it’s important to note that the once-powerful day means a little less than it used to as fewer states head for the polls. Since 2000, the number of states voting on Super Tuesday has ranged from a lowly 10 to a high of 24.

In 2008, Obama’s Super Tuesday triumph may well have shaped the future of the race for the nomination on the Democrat’s side. On the day in which an atypically high number of states held their primaries and caucuses, the then-senator of Illinois came out with five more states and 13 more delegates than Clinton in what was deemed a “surprise twist” by the political media.

With early voting in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada (for the Democrats) and South Carolina (Republicans only) already a distant memory, frontrunners Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are headed into Super Tuesday with 61 and 502 delegates respectively. Both lead by significant margins, each carrying at least six times as many delegates as their closest competitor, which means they have the most to lose on Super Tuesday.

With less states in the mix this year and southern states dominating the spread, Super Tuesday is simply less likely to stir up this same type of shakeup. Clinton’s relative popularity among black voters will likely solidify her lead. As such, Sanders’ campaign manager has stated his camp’s focus on “the long game.”

Despite facing an uphill battle against Clinton after his Nevada defeat, Sanders is currently leading in Massachusetts polls (a state won by Clinton in 2008) and favored to win Vermont, where he has held a Senate seat for 9 years. While his campaign intends to court superdelegates, Clinton is favored to take South Carolina on February 27 and claim a significant number of delegates among the southern states.

Among red states, Cruz has momentum to top Trump in the delegate-heavy state of Texas, where he is a first-term senator. He is also in prime financial standing at this point in the race. In both 2008 and 2012, Super Tuesday winners became party nominees, which adds additional gravitas to the important day.