Super Tuesday for dummies

What follows is an attempt, to the best of my abilities, to demistify the Super Tuesday primaries/caucuses which will be held Wednesday our time. Those with a better understanding of these matters are invited to scrutinise my work for errors or significant omissions.

The Democratic candidate will be chosen by 4049 delegates at the party’s national convention from August 25-28. This includes 796 “superdelegates” who attend by virtue of holding senior party positions, and who are not pledged to particular candidates. By the reckoning of the 2008 Democratic Convention Watch blog, 198 superdelegates have declared their intention to support Hillary Clinton against 107 for Barack Obama, with 415 undeclared. The six primaries and caucuses that have been held so far have chosen 63 delegates pledged to Obama, 48 to Clinton and 26 to John Edwards, who has since withdrawn. The Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses will determine 1688 of the remaining 3253, representing 22 states along with American Samoa and “Democrats Abroad”.

In most cases a state’s pledged delegates are awarded by a two-tier system of proportional representation. Slightly over a quarter are allocated proportionately to the statewide vote, with candidates needing to clear a 15 per cent threshold to win representation. A little over half are tied to congressional districts, with each choosing between three and six delegates depending on the district’s party turnout at recent elections. The effect is similar to Australian upper house systems in which a limited number of members are chosen from each state or region, reducing the proportionality of the overall result by locking out the smaller players. States variously conduct primaries or caucuses, the salient difference being that the latter do not provide a secret ballot. These can be “open” (all voters may participate regardless of party registration), “closed” (only voters registered with the party may participate) or “semi-open” (voters may participate regardless of party registration, but only in one party’s primary or the other).

Poll averages listed below are calculated from results listed at Electoral-Vote.com. The numbers in brackets show the number of polls from which the average was determined. A small number of polls with an unusually high undecided vote have been deemed untrustworthy and excluded.

CALIFORNIA
Semi-open primary
370 tied delegates: 129 by statewide PR, 241 by district-level PR
71 superdelegates
Fortnight poll average (9): Clinton 45/Obama 39

NEW YORK
Closed primary
232 tied delegates:81 by statewide PR, 151 by district-level PR
49 superdelegates
Fortnight poll average (6): Clinton 52/Obama 32

ILLINOIS
Open primary
153 tied delegates: 53 by statewide PR, 100 by district-level PR
32 superdelegates
Fortnight poll average (2): Obama 56/Clinton 32

NEW JERSEY
Semi-open primary
107 tied delegates: 37 by statewide PR, 70 by district-level PR
20 superdelegates
Fortnight poll average (6): Clinton 48/Obama 38

MASSACHUSETTS
Semi-open primary
93 tied delegates: 32 by statewide PR, 61 by district-level PR
28 superdelegates
Fortnight poll average (3): Clinton 53/Obama 31

GEORGIA
Open primary
87 tied delegates: 30 by statewide PR, 57 by district-level PR
16 superdelegates
Fortnight poll average (5): Obama 50/Clinton 39

MINNESOTA
Open caucuses
72 tied delegates: 25 by statewide PR, 47 by district-level PR
16 superdelegates
Fortnight poll average (1): Clinton 40/Obama 33

MISSOURI
Open primary
72 tied delegates: 25 by statewide PR, 47 by district-level PR
16 superdelegates
Fortnight poll average (7): Clinton 45/Obama 37

TENNESSEE
Open primary
68 tied delegates: 24 by statewide PR, 44 by district-level PR
17 superdelegates
Fortnight poll average (4): Clinton 50/Obama 32

COLORADO
Closed caucuses
55 tied delegates: statewide PR
15 superdelegates
Fortnight poll average (1): Clinton 32/Obama 34

ARIZONA
Closed primary
56 tied delegates: 19 by statewide PR, 37 by district-level PR
11 superdelegates
Fortnight poll average (3): Clinton 42/Obama 36

CONNECTICUT
Closed primary
48 tied delegates: 17 by statewide PR, 31 by district-level PR
12 superdelegates
Fortnight poll average (3): Clinton 44/Obama 41

ALABAMA
Open primary
52 tied delegates: 18 by statewide PR, 34 by district-level PR
8 superdelegates
Fortnight poll average (5): Clinton 43/Obama 37

ARKANSAS
Open primary
35 tied delegates: 13 by statewide PR, 22 by district-level PR
12 superdelegates
No poll available

OKLAHOMA
Closed primary
38 tied delegates: 13 by statewide PR, 25 by district-level PR
9 superdelegates
Fortnight poll average (1): Clinton 44/Obama 19

KANSAS
Closed caucuses
32 tied delegates: district-level PR
9 superdelegates
Fortnight poll average (1): Clinton 27/Obama 22

NEW MEXICO
Closed primary
26 tied delegates: 9 by statewide PR, 17 by district-level PR
12 superdelegates
No poll available

UTAH
Semi-open primary
23 tied delegates: 8 by statewide PR, 15 by district-level PR
6 superdelegates
Fortnight poll average (1): Obama 53/Clinton 29

DELAWARE
Closed primary
15 tied delegates: 5 by statewide PR, 10 by district-level PR
8 superdelegates
Fortnight poll average (1): Clinton 44/Obama 42

IDAHO
Open caucuses
18 tied delegates: district-level PR
5 superdelegates
No poll available

NORTH DAKOTA
Closed primary
13 tied delegates: statewide PR
8 superdelegates
No poll available

ALASKA
Closed caucuses
13 tied delegates: statewide PR
5 superdelegates
No poll available

The Republican candidate will be chosen at the convention to be held from September 1-4 by 2380 delegates, including 1917 who are pledged to particular candidates and 463 who are unpledged (not normally referred to as “superdelegates” in the Republican case, but essentially the same thing). Super Tuesday will see 1014 pledged delegates chosen from 21 states. The eight states which have held primaries and caucuses so far have chosen 95 delegates pledged to John McCain, 85 to Mitt Romney, 26 to Mike Huckabee and six to Ron Paul. A further two unpledged delegates are committed to support McCain, seven to Romney and three to Huckabee. The Republicans make life easier for election watchers by allocating a number of states’ delegates on a winner-takes-all basis, while other states operate similarly to the normal Democratic practice. Poll averages shown below from New York and New Jersey have been limited to the past week to account for the withdrawal of Rudi Giuliani, who has thrown his support behind John McCain. If anyone can explain to me in reasonably simple language how the Colorado, Minnesota and Alaska caucuses work, I shall be most grateful.

CALIFORNIA
Closed primary
170 tied delegates: 11 to statewide winner, 159 to district winners
3 unpledged RNC delegates
Fortnight poll average (10): McCain 36/Romney 30/Huckabee 13/Paul 5

NEW YORK
Closed primary
101 tied delegates: winner takes all
Week poll average (4): McCain 54/Romney 25/Huckabee 7/Paul 5

GEORGIA
Open primary
69 tied delegates: 33 to statewide winner, 39 to district winners
3 unpledged RNC delegates
Fortnight poll average (4): McCain 29/Romney 26/Huckabee 25/Paul 7

ILLINOIS
Open primary
57 tied delegates: District-level PR (3 to 6 per district)
10 unpledged statewide delegates
3 unpledged RNC delegates
Fortnight poll average (2): McCain 41/Romney 30/Huckabee 10/Paul 7

MISSOURI
Open primary
58 tied delegates: winner takes all
Fortnight poll average (6): McCain 31/Huckabee 28/Romney 24/Paul 5

TENNESSEE
Open primary
52 tied delegates: 12 by statewide PR, 27 by district-level PR (3 per district)
3 unpledged RNC delegates
Fortnight poll average (4): McCain 30/Huckabee 26/Romney 22/Paul 7

ARIZONA
Closed primary
50 tied delegates: winner takes all
3 unpledged RNC delegates
Fortnight poll average (1): McCain 46/Romney 27/Huckabee 9/Paul 3

NEW JERSEY
Semi-open primary
52 tied delegates: winner takes all
Week poll average (5): McCain 49/Romney 26/Huckabee 7/Paul 5

ALABAMA
Open primary
45 tied delegates: 24 by statewide PR, 21 by district-level PR (3 per district)
3 unpledged RNC delegates
Fortnight poll average (6): McCain 34/Huckabee 30/Romney 17/Paul 4

COLORADO
Closed caucuses
43 tied delegates
3 unpledged RNC delegates
Fortnight poll average (1): Romney 43/McCain 24/Huckabee 17/Paul 5

MASSACHUSETTS
Semi-open primary
40 tied delegates: 10 by statewide PR, 30 by district-level PR (3 per district)
3 unpledged RNC delegates
Fortnight poll average (3): Romney 54/McCain 29/Huckabee 6/Paul 3

OKLAHOMA
Closed primary
38 tied delegates: 23 by statewide PR, 15 to district winners
3 unpledged RNC delegates
Fortnight poll average (1): McCain 37/Huckabee 28/Romney 19/Paul 6

MINNESOTA
Open caucuses
38 tied delegates
3 unpledged RNC delegates
Fortnight poll average (1): McCain 41/Huckabee 22/Romney 17/Paul 5

UTAH
Closed primary
36 tied delegates: winner takes all
Fortnight poll average (1): Romney 84/McCain 4

ARKANSAS
Open primary
31 tied delegates: 19 by statewide PR, 12 by district-level PR (3 per district)
3 unpledged RNC delegates
No poll available

WEST VIRGINIA
Closed caucus
18 tied delegates: winner takes all, run-off (i.e. preferential) voting
9 tied to May 13 primary
3 unpledged RNC delegates
No poll available

CONNECTICUT
Closed primary
27 tied delegates: winner takes all
3 unpledged RNC delegates
Fortnight poll average (3): McCain 46/Romney 27/Huckabee 9/Paul 3

ALASKA
Closed caucuses
26 tied delegates
3 unpledged RNC delegates
No poll available

NORTH DAKOTA
Open caucuses
23 tied delegates: statewide PR
3 unpledged RNC delegates
No poll available

MONTANA
Closed caucuses
25 tied delegates: winner takes all
No poll available

DELAWARE
Closed primary
15 tied delegates: winner takes all
3 unpledged RNC delegates
Fortnight poll average (1): McCain 41/Romney 35/Huckabee 7/Paul 5

UPDATE: News Limited blogger Paul Colgan has a very useful aggregation of links on the subject. Like it or not, the definitive entry comes from Fox News.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

225 comments on “Super Tuesday for dummies”

  1. William,

    Would it be possible to open up a new thread tonight or tomorrow morning for Super Tuesday ramblings? Your guide in the above post, while extremely useful, does ensure a lot more scrolling needs to be done before one reaches the comments, due to it’s comprehensive nature. Which would be fine if not for the fact a lot of refreshing will undoubtedly be done tomorrow!

    Just a thought, no big deal either way

  2. 199
    Max

    Whatever the actual result, it’s one hell of a rocket ride for the Obama side!

    A week ago Clinton was unassailable.

    Who said “a week is a long time on Pollbludgers”?

  3. #192 Max:

    If a published poll is, for example, at 47-45, does that (in the US) mean the missing percentage are undecided? Or those who are voting for a withdrawn candidate (such as Edwards) anyway?

    My understanding is the possible polling options would be ‘Hillary Clinton’, ‘Barack Obama’, ‘Mike Gravel’, or ‘undecided’.

  4. But more appropriately for this thread, Gore said:

    Any American who is prepared to run for president should automatically, by definition, be disqualified from ever doing so.

  5. Robert at 190, Gore vidal could perhaps be described as more of a vivisector. People are wide awake as he wields his scalpel. His tomes can be a tad turgid, but his essays rarely fail to stimulate.

    “As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too. Words are used to disguise, not to illuminate, action: you liberate a city by destroying it*. Words are to confuse, so that at election time people will solemnly vote against their own interests.” G.V.

    cf. Hue and Fallujah

  6. It ain’t lookin’ like a happy day on Wall Street:

    WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — Growth in the nonmanufacturing side of the U.S. economy contracted sharply, the Institute for Supply Management reported Friday. The ISM nonmanufacturing index fell to 41.9% in January from 54.4% in December. The reading was well below the 53.0% expected by economists. Readings below 50% indicate most firms are contracting. The ISM services index was released early. ISM gave no explanation for the early release.

    …that’s a shocker, and the Fed has not dolloped out enough juice to make Mr Market happy.

    Looks like a depressing start (no pun intended) to Super Choose Day

  7. KR enough with the frills; I’m under strict orders not to ever be frilled again. Hey , that’s sad isn’t it?

    Gallop…gallop…You big horse shoe err you! Btw will the mossie do it? & can we please have Dr A & ESJ back; Please? Gowawwn.

  8. Diogenes @ 185 thanks, but I have followed your threads with interest; what I was asking for was your opinion on the current crop; accept the historical fwiw.

    I was serious about McSame; I personally think he’s nuts; that’s all, a clear & present danger imho. Just another ‘hero’ captive to Cheney’s embeded chums et al etc etc… Indeed ripe for it.

    Low hanging fruit if ever I saw it. But then again, I suppose, who in this circus isn’t? Just asking. & watching the percolated angst here and elsewhere, as if it’s going to make a difference. Same tent, same show, different top hat. Big deal.

    And of course, what are Mr. Rudd & Mr. Smith going to say & do about ‘this’? & sell us? Should be interesting. Will.

  9. While tracking through the noise on the candidate blogs – the following comments had me chucking away to myself sufficient to promt a sharing moment with you guys/gals.

    Someone with the alias SvK over on the Obama site discovered the black and white graph on polster.com with the bubbles indicating delegate magnitude and greyscale level indicating recency (dark is more recent, lighter is further away in time). His comment on the blog was:

    POLL CHART
    (for serious junkies)

    Size of the balls signifies number of delegates
    The Blacker the ball , the more recent the poll

    Basically we are looking for black balls to cross to the left (Obama’s side)

    Another poster with the alias m4rk0 posted a reply …

    You might want to consider re-wording this post

    I had to think about that for a moment or two then it hit me … I guess I just have to accept that I’m a little too familiar with the graph and not sufficiently tunned to more on the ground issues.

  10. A note from Joe in Vermont …

    Three women were seen running down the Metro North platform at Chappaqua boarding the train headed for Grand Central. Bill Clinton was not far beehind yelling “Come Back, Come Back! Don’t Leave Us Now”. It was reported that their names were “Faith, Hope & Charity”. No word on the fourth companion “Chastity” who had the good sense to stay in NYC.

  11. Voter experience in South Jersey

    He went into the machine and noticed that there was a red X listed next to Clinton. He pushed the X next to Obama and while he was looking for the button to push to record his vote, the X for Obama disappeared and the red X for Clinton came on again. So he complained to the poll worker and then went ahead and pushed Obama and then quickly pushed the Vote button before it could reset to Clinton.

  12. Quote from Dobson of the religious extreme right in Carpetbagger indicates that they will not vote rather than voting for McCain, dear me, how sad (rotfl)

    “But what a sad and melancholy decision this is for me and many other conservatives. Should John McCain capture the nomination as many assume, I believe this general election will offer the worst choices for president in my lifetime. I certainly can’t vote for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama based on the virulently anti-family policy positions. If these are the nominees in November, I simply will not cast a ballot for president for the first time in my life.”

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