On Tuesday, voters in 14 U.S. states and American Samoa will head to primary elections or caucuses to let their presidential preferences be known.
On the Republican side of things, this isn’t a very big deal this year: Donald Trump doesn’t have any serious challengers for the party’s nomination.
For the Democrats, it is a big deal this year. After three candidates dropped out — including Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar — in the wake of the South Carolina primary, five people are still vying for the party’s nomination.
Minnesotans voting in the Democratic primary will see 15 names plus an uncommitted option on the ballot, but only five candidates named are still in the race. They are: Former Vice President Joe Biden, Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Why is Super Tuesday such a big deal?
There are more than 1,300 delegates at stake on Tuesday, representing about a third of all Democratic Party delegates. It’s the most delegates available in the contest on any single day this primary season.
In contrast to the earliest primary states, which were one-offs in different regions of the U.S., including the Midwest (Iowa), the Northeast (New Hampshire), the Southwest (Nevada) and the South (South Carolina), Super Tuesday is all over the map.
“It’s our first shot at seeing a wide swath of states hold their nomination contests. There’s a lot of delegates at stake, and of course, that’s the main point of this, is top win delegates,” said Christopher Chapp, a political science professor at St. Olaf College.
While it’s a big deal for all the candidates, it’s a different kind of big deal for different candidates, Chapp said. For Sanders, who is leading in delegates, it’s about stockpiling more.
For everyone else?
“They need to assert themselves and become sort of the other candidate in the race, so a strong Super Tuesday showing could help bring in more fundraising dollars. It could encourage other candidates to get out of the race, and certainly that’s what they’re trying to do,” Chapp said Friday.
Which states and territories are voting?
In descending order of delegates, they are:
- California, 415
- Texas, 228
- North Carolina, 110
- Virginia, 99
- Massachusetts, 91
- Minnesota, 75
- Colorado, 67
- Tennessee, 64
- Alabama, 52
- Oklahoma, 37
- Arkansas, 31
- Utah, 29
- Maine, 24
- Vermont, 16
- American Samoa, 6
- (Democrats abroad, with 13 delegates, are also voting Tuesday).
What’s at stake in Minnesota?
Compared to California and Texas, with 415 and 228 delegates, respectively, Minnesota’s 75 delegates are pretty small potatoes.
But one thing worth noting is unless you count Oklahoma (it’s the opinion of this former Texas reporter that Oklahoma falls in the “Lower Great Plains/Greater Texas” region of the country), Minnesota represents the first Midwest test for candidates since Iowa — and the only one on Super Tuesday.
Still, “Minnesota, I guess, hasn’t really been all that important in the primary process,” Kyle Kondik, at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, told MinnPost last week. “It’s not a huge delegate prize.”
Klobuchar’s exit from the race may make a difference: the most recent Minnesota poll, by the Star Tribune and MPR, put her at 29 percent support to Sanders’ 23 percent. Warren was at 11 percent. Biden was at 8 percent. Bloomberg and Buttigieg were at 3 percent. To be determined Tuesday: does Biden’s surge in South Carolina, plus the exit of Klobuchar and Buttigieg, help the former vice president score delegates in Minnesota? Will Sanders’ Monday night rally in St. Paul and/or those dropouts help him?
How will Minnesota delegates be apportioned Tuesday?
Technically, Minnesota will send 92 delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee this summer to help choose a nominee. But only 75 of them are up for grabs Tuesday.
Those 75 delegates are “pledged” delegates, which means they’ll be apportioned based on how candidates fare at the polls Tuesday. These will be divvied up to candidates who meet a 15 percent viability threshold, and candidates will take them to the convention.
Some delegates are awarded based on the statewide vote, while others are awarded based on the vote in each of Minnesota’s eighth Congressional districts. That means it would technically be possible for a candidate who didn’t win statewide to nonetheless win more delegates.
17 others are “unpledged” delegates. They are Party Leaders and Elected Officials (PLEOs), who are members of the DNC committee, Minnesota’s U.S. House and Senate members and former Vice President Walter Mondale. These delegates can vote for whomever they want, but only on the second ballot (if no candidate wins one more than half of the 3,979 pledged delegates, there’s a second round of voting, where these people jump in).
When will we have results?
Minnesota switched from a caucus to a primary in advance of this presidential nominating contest. That means local elections officials will be counting the ballots and reporting results to the Minnesota Secretary of State just like they do in other statewide elections. Secretary of State Steve Simon expects results to arrive in a timely manner on election night.
“Unlike our neighbor to the south, I think we’re going to have results that night just like we would in any other election,” he told MinnPost.
Once the polls close at 8 p.m., check back with MinnPost where we’ll be posting the results as they are reported by the Secretary of State.
Peter Callaghan contributed reporting to this story.