Will Super Tuesday Reveal Trump’s Future Democratic Challenger?
It began on February 3 with the Iowa caucuses. It will end on June 7 with the Puerto Rico primary.
During that four-month window, all 50 states hold caucuses or primaries. Plus the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories. And what is known as Democrats Abroad.
The purpose of these elections is simple. To select the approximately 3,979 pledged delegates to the Democratic National Convention. And 2,550 pledged delegates to the Republican National Convention.
As of this writing, only a small percentage of pledged delegates have been selected. After Super Tuesday (March 3), about 1,500 Democratic and 900 Republican delegates will be chosen.
Primaries Crucial to Success
Those selected delegates will gather at the national conventions. There they will choose their party’s nominee for the 2020 presidential election.
How important are the primaries and caucuses? It’s no exaggeration to say they are crucial.
For the Democrats, 1,990 delegates are needed for a candidate to get the nomination on the first ballot.
For the Republicans, 1,276 delegates are required for a candidate to get the nomination on the first ballot.
Superdelegates May Play a Role
If there is no clear victor after the first ballot, it goes to a second ballot. That’s when 771 unpledged Democratic delegates can vote. They’re known as superdelegates.
Republicans also have superdelegates. But in reality they are not involved in their party’s nomination process.
The Democratic presidential nomination might go to a second (or additional) ballot. If so, 2,376 out of 4,750 total delegate votes will be needed.
Unless something unusual occurs, President Donald Trump will be the Republican candidate. But the Democratic race is wide open.
And Then There Were 8
Of the original 29 major Democratic presidential candidates, 21 dropped out. Only eight remain.
As of this writing, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has garnered 43 delegate votes. Former Indiana Governor Pete Buttigieg has 26.
Former Vice President Joe Biden of Delaware has 13 delegates. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has eight. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar has seven.
The other three candidates have none. They are former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Plus U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. And hedge fund manager Tom Steyer of California.
Caucuses vs. Primaries
Here’s some background on primaries and caucuses. The U.S. Constitution says nothing about them. Or about political parties, for that matter.
Political parties developed over time. They created these processes for nominating their candidates.
Caucuses are different from primaries. Caucuses are in-person gatherings at designated times. Those who show up can vote for a candidate.
Primaries are held in polling places. They allow voters to cast secret ballots.
With Democratic primaries, delegates are allocated proportionally. A candidate who gets 60 percent of a state’s vote wins 60 percent of the state’s delegates.
With Republican primaries, each state chooses how delegates are allocated. Some do it proportionally. Others give all delegates to the primary winner.
There are three types of primaries. Closed, semi-closed and open. With closed primaries, one must be a registered party member to vote.
With semi-closed primaries, registered party members and independents can vote. With open primaries, registered voters can participate in whichever primary they choose.
14 State Primaries March 3
Why is so much attention on Super Tuesday? About 40 percent of pledged Democratic delegates will be awarded based on that day’s voting.
Fourteen states will hold primaries on March 3. They are Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts and Minnesota.
Plus North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Virginia. California and Texas are the two most populous states in the Union.
Trump has no serious Republican challengers. But Super Tuesday could go a long way to determining who his challenger will be.
Super Tuesday a Game Changer
It’s critical for Democratic candidates to be in the running after Super Tuesday results come in.
Candidates finding themselves in fifth place or lower might have problems. It will be tough to convince donors to continue contributing.
Super Tuesday could signal a clear Democratic winner. Although that seems unlikely given how close the races appear.
Josh Putnam is a political science professor. He says Super Tuesday “can also show whether things are evenly divided or evenly enough to keep primary season going for a longer time.”
The National Republican Party held the first major political party convention in 1831. The following year, the first Democratic National Convention occurred.
This year, the Democratic National Convention will be July 13-16 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Republican National Convention is August 24-27 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Occasionally, conventions are “contested.” This occurs when no candidate enters the convention with a majority of delegates. It last happened in 1984. That’s when Democratic Vice President Walter Mondale was a few delegates short.
Another possibility is a “brokered” convention. That’s when no candidate has been selected by a majority of the delegates after the first ballot. This has not happened since 1952.
Who’s It Going to Be?
So, who will President Trump’s Democratic challenger be? That’s very much up in the air right now.
National polls have shown Biden slightly ahead of Sanders. Of course, we saw how well polls worked in the 2016 presidential election.
And although he doesn’t have any delegates yet, Bloomberg is very much in the conversation lately. As they say in politics, the only poll that matters is on election day.