In the United States, “Super Tuesday” is a Tuesday in early February or March of a Presidential election year. On Super Tuesday, numerous states hold primary elections, conventions, or caucuses simultaneously. The voting results on Super Tuesday can have a major influence on the course of the election, as they allocate a large number of delegates to the national conventions of the Democrats and Republicans, potentially determining which candidate will be nominated to run for President as the representative of his or her political party.
Primary elections are held to give voters input into who they think should be nominated for the Presidency. There are a number of different styles of primary election in the United States, which can make voting in the primaries confusing and complicated for citizens, but essentially people pick candidates whom they think would be suited for the office, and these votes are in turn used to nominate delegates to state and national conventions.
The individual state votes for various candidates are tallied, and delegates are awarded to each candidate depending on the system used by the state. For example, in a state with 100 Republican delegates, a candidate who received 40% of the Republican vote might get 40 delegates at the national convention. The candidate with the most delegates at the national convention will be nominated to run for President.
Super Tuesday is important in American politics for several reasons. For one thing, a lot of delegates are at stake. For another, the Super Tuesday primaries are held in incredibly diverse states, potentially serving as a litmus test for a candidate to determine whether or not he or she would be able to take the general election. For candidates who are struggling, Super Tuesday can be the making or breaking point, either propelling the candidate into popularity or making the candidate non-viable.
The term was coined in 1984, and it became popularized in 1988, when the Southern states attempted to vote in a block so that they could more persuasively influence American politics. The largest Super Tuesday in history as of 2008 was that scheduled for 5 February, 2008, in which 24 states held primaries, caucuses, or conventions; newscasters dubbed it “Tsunami Tuesday” in a reference to the size.
For candidates, Super Tuesday can be very stressful. It requires them to mount successful campaigns simultaneously in very different places. Some candidates concentrate on several Super Tuesday states rather than trying to collect all of the delegates from all of the states holding primaries; states with large populations tend to be heavily courted in the weeks leading up to Super Tuesday, as they have a lot of delegates.
For voters, Super Tuesday can be interesting because it can provide a glimpse into the fates of the candidates. Voters who support fringe candidates may be motivated to campaign hard in the time period leading up to Super Tuesday, in the hopes of generating a groundswell of public support.