by Reuben Wang
TUESDAY saw the latest milestone in the contest to be the President of the United States. So what exactly happened?
What is Super Tuesday?
Super Tuesday was the day with the highest number of states holding their primary elections to ask voters: “Who do you want to represent your political party in the presidential election?”
As the presidential contest is a winner-take-all event, each party must choose a single candidate to stand behind to prevent similarly minded voters of splitting their vote. The Americans solve this by holding primary elections which pit presidential wannabes from the same party against each other – and let the party’s supporters choose.
Primaries are organised by the local party branches from each state. Delegates from each state will be invited to the national party convention held in July to vote for the candidate they want to be the party’s nominee. The vast majority of these delegates are bound by law and tradition to stand behind the results of their state’s primary elections.
What’s so super about it?
Super Tuesday, then, is the day on which the most delegates are up for grabs – on the Republican side, a quarter of delegates will be committed by the results. This means that the predictions by pundits and statisticians about how well various candidates are performing will either be translated into actual results, or be scolded at by other pundits or statisticians. The results will force the state delegates to vote, in the national convention, for the candidate their electorate has chosen.
Why is it held on Tuesday?
Tradition, mainly. While no one knows for certain why American elections occur on Tuesday so often, one theory says that it is because farmers in the early 1800s required an entire day to vote. And Tuesday does not fall on market day (Wednesday) or the Biblical day of rest, the Sabbath (Sunday). Either way, Americans tend to put their elections on Tuesday.
In the modern day, states gain an advantage holding their primary elections earlier in the primary process – candidates will be forced to pander to the whims and fancies of otherwise electorally insignificant states. Google pictures of presidential candidates eating Iowa’s iconic Deep Fried Butter Stick – it is exactly what you think it is, and that’s the level of pandering involved. Pity to their waistlines.
Why? Because winning in earlier states are seen, particularly in the press, as momentum builders. It garners more coverage. So, states started gaming the system – the modern Super Tuesday has its roots in when the 1988 presidential elections, when the majority of Southern states decided to hold their election on the same day, early in the race, to make sure candidates will pander to their specific demands.
What do the results mean?
Mr Trump (read our profile of him here) and Ms Clinton are the clear winners of Tuesday’s events. Both of them bagged seven of the 11 elections which took place on Tuesday.
However, the results mean very different things for both candidates. For the race to be the Democratic Party’s nominee, Senator Bernie Sanders, the affable self-described socialist running an underdog campaign (read our profile of him here), has failed to gain traction in the minority communities. In the state of Texas, Mr Sanders only won 15 per cent and 29 per cent of the of African-Americans and Latino vote respectively.
For Mr Trump, in the five-man Republican Party race, the story is drastically different. While he has managed to win a majority of states, he failed to win a simple majority in any of them – only hovering around the high thirties and low forties. This is extremely significant. A number of states allow for their delegates to switch their allegiance if the candidate with the highest delegate count fail to exceed 50 per cent. And practically everyone in the traditional core of the Republican party wants. Trump. Out. of. the. Running.
Who is there to replace Trump as frontrunner? Senator Ted Cruz is in second place, but the party reviles him too, perhaps even more so than Mr Trump. Senator Marco Rubio had been the person the party have decided to support, but his performance on Super Tuesday was disappointing.
What now for the primary race?
The states in the contest so far gave out their delegates roughly in proportion to the candidate’s’ vote share. The next few are going to be winner-take-all. Expect do-or-drop-out moments for the weaker Republican candidates. However, the Republican nomination seems increasingly likely to be decided in the back rooms of the Party Convention.
Who is going to win the Presidential race?
It is still too early to tell; you can’t tell who will win a marathon when the competitors have only ran two kilometres. Mr Trump and Ms Clinton are certainly in the lead to spar as the two party’s representatives, but even Mr Trump’s road to becoming the Republican Party’s nominee is perilous. He had faced even worse odds getting to where he is, though.
Illustrations and infographics by Sean Chong
Featured image by Sean Chong
Picture of 2008 Democratic Party Convention in infographic Spotlight on Obama (Commentary) from Flickr user Steve Jurvetson. CC BY 2.0
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