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In the United States, Super Tuesday, in general, refers to the Tuesday in February or March of a presidential election year when the greatest number of states hold primary elections to select delegates to national conventions at which each party's presidential candidates are officially nominated. More delegates can be won on Super Tuesday than on any other single day of the primary calendar; accordingly, candidates seeking the presidency traditionally must do well on this day to secure their party's nomination. In 2008, Super Tuesday was February 5; 24 states held primaries or caucuses on this date, with 52% of all pledged Democratic Party delegates and 49% of the total Republican Party delegates at stake. The 2012 Super Tuesday was held on March 6, 2012.
Since Super Tuesday primaries are typically held in a large number of states from geographically and socially diverse regions of the country, Super Tuesday typically represents a presidential candidate's first test of national electability. Convincing wins in Super Tuesday primaries have usually propelled candidates to their party's nomination. The particular states holding primaries on Super Tuesday have varied from year to year.
The phrase "Super Tuesday" has been used to refer to presidential primary elections since at least 1976. In fact, the 1984 primary season had three "Super Tuesdays". Decided on "Super Tuesday III" were delegates from five states: South Dakota, New Mexico, West Virginia, California and New Jersey. The proportional nature of delegate selection meant that Walter Mondale was likely to obtain enough delegates on that day to secure the support of a majority of delegates and hence the nomination, no matter who actually "won" the states contested. However, Gary Hart maintained that unpledged superdelegates that had previously claimed support for Mondale would shift to his side if he swept the Super Tuesday III primary. Once again, Hart committed a faux pas, insulting New Jersey shortly before the primary day. Campaigning in California, he remarked that while the "bad news" was that he and his wife Lee had to campaign separately, "[t]he good news for her is that she campaigns in California while I campaign in New Jersey." Compounding the problem, when his wife interjected that she "got to hold a koala bear", Hart replied that "I won't tell you what I got to hold: samples from a toxic waste dump." While Hart won California, he lost New Jersey after leading in polls by as much as 15 points. Mondale secured the majority of delegates from the primaries, leading the way for him to take the Democratic nomination.
The phrase "Super Tuesday" was next used to describe the primary elections that took place on March 8, 1988, in the Southern states of Texas, Florida, Tennessee, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama, and Georgia leading up to the 1988 November election. Southern Democrats came up with the idea of a regional primary in an effort to nominate a moderate candidate who would more closely represent their interests. (Their plan ultimately did not succeed as Dick Gephardt, Jesse Jackson, Al Gore, and Michael Dukakis split the Super Tuesday primaries, and Dukakis was subsequently nominated.) From 1996 to 2004, most of these Southern primaries were held the week after Super Tuesday, dubbed "Southern Tuesday" by news commentators.
In 1992, Super Tuesday was on March 10. After losing earlier primaries, Democrat Bill Clinton emerged as a candidate "back from the dead" when he convincingly won a number of Southern primaries on Super Tuesday. Clinton ultimately went on to win the Democratic nomination and the presidency.
In 2000, Super Tuesday was on March 7. Sixteen states held primaries on Super Tuesday, the largest presidential primary election day in U.S. history up to that point. In 2000, approximately 81% of Democratic delegates and 18% of Republican delegates needed to secure nomination were up for grabs on Super Tuesday. That year, Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush cemented their nomination bids with Super Tuesday victories, and both went on to win their parties' nominations.
In 2004, several states moved their presidential contests up to February 3, 2004 in order to increase the relative importance of their election results. Ultimately, five states held primaries and two held caucuses on this date, a date eventually christened Mini-Tuesday or, alternatively, Super Tuesday I by pundits, with the traditional March Super Tuesday date, March 2, christened Super Tuesday II, or just simply "Super Tuesday." Arguably, the Roman numeraled names are most consistent with how Super Tuesdays were first christened in 1984, when there were in fact three Super Tuesdays.
To increase importance of their votes, many states moved up their primaries to February 5, 2008. This new, earlier cohort of primaries and caucuses has thus come to be referred to as "Super Tuesday." (By way of denoting its political magnitude, some pundits have variously dubbed it "Giga Tuesday," "Mega Giga Tuesday," "Tsunami Tuesday" or even "Super Duper Tuesday." "Super Tuesday" is, however, the nominal term and the one most widely used.)
In the spring of 2007, 24 states with over half the delegates to the national conventions moved to change their primary dates to February 5, 2008, creating the largest "Super Tuesday" to date. Newswriters and political pundits have noted that this will dwarf the Super Tuesday primaries in previous cycles, creating a "Tsunami Tuesday," among other superlatives. With only four states holding elections on this year's other Super Tuesday of March 4, 2008, pundits in those states left behind have noted that "this year, however, Super Tuesday isn't so super."
|Democratic primaries||Hillary Clinton||Barack Obama|
|Number of states won on Super Tuesday||12||11|
|Number of delegates won on Super Tuesday||834||847|
|Republican primaries||John McCain||Mitt Romney||Mike Huckabee||Ron Paul|
|Number of states won on Super Tuesday||9||7||5||0|
|Number of delegates won on Super Tuesday||511||176||147||10|
Super Tuesday in 2012 took place on March 6, 2012, totaling 419 delegates (18.3% of the total) in 10 states on the Republican side. (The Democratic primaries were uncontested.) While the impact of this week in 2012 was dwarfed by preceding Super Tuesday contests, frontrunner Mitt Romney was able to pad his lead significantly, with wins in six states and over half the delegates at stake going into his column. However, Santorum's three wins (and a near-win in Ohio) allowed him to carry on for at least another month.
|Republican primaries||Mitt Romney||Rick Santorum||Newt Gingrich||Ron Paul|
|Number of states won on Super Tuesday||6||3||1||0|
|Number of delegates won on Super Tuesday (OH 4 unalloc.)||225||89||80||21|