Why Super Tuesday matters

By Dan Cravens

Today’s “Super Tuesday” primaries are an important milestone in electing America’s next president. Super Tuesday is critical to the presidential nomination process of both the Democratic and Republican parties. Up for grabs is about one-third of the delegates needed for the Democratic nomination, and about half of those needed for the Republican nomination.

Several states hold Democratic and Republican primaries on Super Tuesday primaries. They include Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia. And Alaska and Colorado hold Republican contests. Colorado Democrats will also select a slate of delegates.

The impact of Super Tuesday during last two presidential campaigns has been critical to the nomination process. In 2008 Super Tuesday gave Sen. John McCain what proved to be an insurmountable lead in delegates to the Republican National Convention. Barack Obama in 2008 had several victories that propelled him into front-runner status over then-Sen. Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. In 2012 the Super Tuesday Republican contests did much to propel Mitt Romney to the GOP nomination by giving him a sizable delegate lead over his challengers.

The 2016 edition of Super Tuesday may do much to decide the nominations of both the Republicans and Democrats. The Real Clear Politics average of polls shows Hillary Clinton with substantial leads in most of the Super Tuesday states. If the polls are correct, a victory on Super Tuesday combined with her sizable lead in super delegates could effectively eliminate Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders from the race for the nomination.

On the Republican side, polls show casino and real estate mogul Donald Trump with a lead in most of the Super Tuesday states. The major exception is in Super Tuesday’s largest prize, where Texas Sen. Ted Cruz enjoys a double-digit advantage in his home state. Cruz’s lead is substantial and may be enough, with strong performances in other states, to offset likely Trump victories elsewhere.

However, a Trump victory in Texas and the other Super Tuesday states would do much to help to cement his claim to the GOP nomination. If Trump sweeps on Super Tuesday there would be a strong presumption that he will become the Republican nominee. It also likely that a sweep may cause a winnowing down of the GOP field.

There are no states in which Sen. Marco Rubio is a clear favorite. Rubio’s best hope may be in hoping that Cruz and Trump split the vote enough to allow him an opening to pick up delegates in several of the contests.

For Ben Carson and John Kasich, Super Tuesday holds little chance of victory. Both candidates have been slipping in the polls. Kasich has even gone so far to predict that Trump will win all the contests on Super Tuesday. One wonders how long either Kasich or Carson will last in the presidential race given their relegation to an almost certain spoiler role.

The results of Super Tuesday will do much to shape the outcome of 2016’s presidential race. However, on March 8 voters in Michigan and Mississippi will have a chance to makes their voices heard in Republican and Democratic primaries, along with Republicans here in Idaho. Democrats in Idaho will caucus to select delegates on March 22.

Dan Cravens lives in Blackfoot with his wife and family. He is the Bingham County Republican chairman, and the regional coordinator for Marco Rubio’s campaign.