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have been held so far have chosen 63 delegates pledged to Obama, 48 to Clinton and 26 to John Edwards, who has since withdrawn.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”

Comments Page 3 of 5
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  1. Max,

    McCain talks of US bases in Iraq for posibly 100 years , a form of colonialism that guarantees terrorist responses

    Ron, I disagree with a lot of views you express about Iraq and other Middle East countries. I just don’t like debating the war – or anything to do with it – on blogs like this because they are so dominated by people on the left and a lot of them are unwavering in their views. Which is fine, but is why I don’t rise to any debate about foreign policy. We will agree on some things and not others.

    Either way, there are other reasons for supporting a candidate than Iraq.

  2. Love that old movie It’s a Mad, Mad Mad World. So if it’s Clinton Vs McCain in November shoot-out. On one hand, you have conservatives and the far rights cannot stand McCain because he is not conservative enough and will vote for Hillary. On the other side, the Liberals and far lefts cannot stand Hillary because she is not liberal enough and will vote for McCain. Yes, it’s a Mad, Mad Mad World.

  3. McCain’s TV ads are a two-pronged effort to show that he’s:

    a) A ‘true’ conservative and Reagan hugger
    b) A true patriot and the force behind their ‘winning’ in Iraq

    Given that the whole Reagan myth is pretty much that, ie myth, and that the second proposition that the ‘surge’ is ‘winning’ Iraq is in the same category, you’d have to conclude that McCain is only going to appeal to a pretty narrow group of die hard Reaganites and Neocon’s while the socially conservative ones are going to find him anathema.

    If these are his best claims for presidency, I can’t see him winning, even against Clinton, despite what the polls are currently trying to say.

  4. 102
    The Finnigans

    yep, there’s something quite surreal about both parties nominating a candidate for whom there is such a large amount of outright hostility! (if McCain and Clinton are the two nominated).

    Maybe the historians can remember a similar match-up, but it looks pretty weird.

  5. #102
    The graphs at the following links are interesting – the first graphs McCain versus Clinton in the general election. The second graphs McCain versus Obama. Both graph cover a little over 12 months. In the case of Clinton/McCain is difficult to make a conclusion as the favorite keeps swapping. In the case of Obama/McCain the trend is Obama steady growth leading to a point where he is leading.

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2008/president/us/general_election_mccain_vs_obama-225.html
    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2008/president/us/general_election_mccain_vs_clinton-224.html

  6. #102 the Finnigans
    The Liberals (progressives) will not vote for McCain because they hate Hillary. Those who hate Hillary may stay home but I suspect that most will ‘hold their noses’ and vote for her if indeed she is the nominee.

  7. KR, I really love your posts. Was suprised to see you quoting David Brooks in regard to Hillary all the same. He is such an opioniated prat.

  8. In response to STROP at 94

    Which other side are you referring to?

    The dark side?

    The north shore?

    Republicans???

    I’m recently back from a trip to the States, and the vibe I picked up on was for a quiet, strong sense of relief that McCain is showing Mormon Mitt a clean pair of heels

  9. Obama would be suicide for the Democrats – the USA has not elected a northern liberal as President since 1960 and probably won’t ever again

    The Democratic Senator from Illinois and the Democratic Senator from New York are both northern liberals.

    Adam had a post way back when (#583 in the NH thread – how do you link to individual comments?) arguing that carrying the south was no longer required for the Democrats. In fact Northern liberals are in a better position to win the Presidency than they have been for a century. (Of course Adam thought Obama could/would lose for other reasons.)

  10. 107
    whatgoesaround

    Brooks may be a conservative, but he’s got a genuine humane view of people, and can see both the Faustian compromise and raging idealist in the same individual. Not many journalists can do this, so I respect his style, even when I do not necessarily agree with him. (Like his long pro-war stance I thought was patently wrongly argued, and I suspect he’s toned it down quite a bit since it started too)

    Hitchens is another I love to read, not because I always agree, I often don’t, but because he argues honestly and honourably, and that always gets my respect, and oh yeah, he’s got the best literay put-down of any writer I can think of! LOL

    I like writers who are not just dull purveyors of statistics or rabid ideologues, but who can wrap an argument into a good story and give it a meaning beyond the petty tabloid opinion, stretch the reader, inform, and hopefully, give you something of who they are.

  11. Is anybody watching on ABC about the “Jihad Sheila”? A fascinating story of two Australian women who became Muslim. To paraphrase Possum’s post earlier, #86 – “If one were to write the ultimately Hollywood story, it would be really hard to go one up on this mesmerising one”.

  12. KR,

    Your wanker drive is on warp speed overdrivel. Pull out before you explode!

    “I like writers who are not just dull purveyors of statistics or rabid ideologues, but who can wrap an argument into a good story and give it a meaning beyond the petty tabloid opinion, stretch the reader, inform, and hopefully, give you something of who they are”.

  13. A day before the Big Jumbo Primary, the POTUS tables his budget, and it’s pretty revealing that even some in his own party have to distance themselves from it:

    Revealing the extent of Bush’s diminished political capital, even members of his own party gave the budget little credence. Judd Gregg, the senior Republican on the Senate budget committee, released a statement that pointed out where the president fell short.

    “Any budget, to be effective, needs to address the unsustainable growth of entitlement spending, which is the single biggest factor contributing to the long-term fiscal crisis we face,” Gregg said. “A budget also needs to honestly address the numbers contributing to its bottom line, such as fully funding the expected costs of the war on terror.”

    …and if you think that’s a bit critical, the Democrats were scathing of another bit of Bush bullsh!t and dodging. Considering that they get to inherit this fiscal wreck, it’s no wonder they are p!ssed off.

  14. Oh, how lovely it was here without badmouth Cartman!

    pity, the loud and aggressive little critter has returned to show us all how really ‘tough’ and clever he is.

    Are we impressed? OOOOOOOOOh, yes!

  15. In Florida:

    The two candidates were essentially even among white voters, with 33 percent for Mr. McCain and 34 percent for Mr. Romney. But Latino voters, including Cuban-Americans and others, favored Mr. McCain by 54 percent to 14 percent for Mr. Romney. (Mr. McCain is known among Latinos for backing an immigration bill offering legal status to illegal immigrants that was defeated last year by conservatives from his party.)

    …which must make the white anti-immigrant section of the Republicans go absolutely ballistic.

  16. Kirribilli Removals,

    Obviously, for you,

    “OOOOOOOOOh, yes!” (after prison)
    ……………….., no! (before prison)

    The tapes are on YouTube.

  17. KR, I totally understand you loving the narrative well told, but David Brooks is some kind of closet conservative who ‘hugs’ the story, being oh so reasonable, when he is often distorting facts to fit his own narrative.
    I actually feel the same way about Hitchins, funny enough. I totally agree with you about his assessment of the Iraq war – terrible. And although I have usually had a few wines by the time I have the pleasure of seeing Hitchins on the odd occasion on Lateline, I am always left wondering just how many he has consumed considering the judgemental vitorol he is capable of.
    That being said you did post an article of his the other day and for the life of me I can’t remember who he was putting down, but it was well done – not surprising either I suppose.
    πŸ™‚

  18. Where Obama will increasingly attract Democrat votes post Super Tuesday , is the perception he has a better chance of beating McCain.

    As Davidoff has said the polls now reflect this liklihood , but also Obama’s claim he can attract independent voters & independent voters more than Hillary

    Democrats will want to be on a winner & Obama’s political claim is compelling

  19. 125
    whatgoesaround

    Probably his flensing of the beastly Ann Coulter, as I put it. A better slicing to the bone you couldn’t imagine…he is truly the master of it.

  20. Obama is a great orator and has genuine passion for change. I think the Republicans will crucify him. If he is nominated I truly hope I am so wrong but all this hype, the free pass from the press and his ideals of bipartisanship with the Republicicans seems naive rather than visionary, considering the state of the USA today.
    Hillary will gain a lot of Obamas supporters if she is the nominee and she will fight the Republican machine. Yes, with the lobbyists in tow….but fighting is going to win over hoping at this time in America I believe.

  21. Head-to-head GOP/Dem polls re McCain/Clinton or whoever need to be treated with a large grain of salt at this stage. The electorate is still focussed on the primaries and hasn’t yet turned its attention to the big gig in the northern Autumn. Once the nominations are in and the comparisons are made during the campaign, then the polls will be instructive.

  22. 132
    Ferny Grover

    Have to agree FG, especially since the Republicans will have more agro from their own ranks than the Democrats, regardless of which one gets nominated.

    Try a bit of Pat Buchanan on McCain to really feel the vitriol that some of these social conservatives engender:

    http://www.amconmag.com/2008/2008_02_11/buchanan.html

    ….eeek, this stuff is really deep and toxic, and for all her faults, Hillary Clinton can ride the tiger and survive, McCain may not prove so light on his feet.

  23. 131
    whatgoesaround

    “Hillary will gain a lot of Obamas supporters if she is the nominee “, they’ll be disappointed, but they won’t be holding off electing a Democrat to the Whitehouse. There are “Hillary Haters”, but they can’t be a sizeable group compared with those who truly loath and detest what Bush has done to their country (and a few others!)

  24. There are none more savage, KR, than the rabid right wing followers of the Prince of Peace. McCain will spend the campaign dodging the righteous boot of Christian fellowship regularly offered by the religious right of his own team.

  25. I can’t understand any claim that Obama is a great orator..

    if you saw him perform in the black caucuses debate, he was beaten all over by Hilary as a debator.

    He’s good at downloading memorised rev-up speeches, but doesn’t make it when he has to think on his feet

  26. Zedder@138, it only took them one term after the evils of Nixon to re-elect a Republican. The Americans seem to have a well developed forgettory.

  27. On the contrary Mr Squiggle (139) I found his put down of Howard after Howard accused him of being Al Qaeda’s friend impressive. That question came from left field and Obama handled it easily.

  28. I’m confident that the Democrats will win with either candidate. What the polls don’t measure is the level of engagement and enthusiasm. That’s crucial in US elections because of the low turnout. That’s why Rove won elections for Bush by appealing to the religious right rather than the middle ground. The problem for the Republicans this time is that disaster in Iraq and a looming recession have demoralised their base. Look at the tiny turnouts to Republican primaries and election rallies. McCain and Huckabee can press hands with gun-nuts and evangelicals and the odd retiree. Obama and (to a lesser extent Clinton) can fill stadiums – 15,000 in Idaho for chrissake!
    2004 saw a larger turnout of Democrat voters which the right matched with a last ditch scare about gay marriage. But Rove was still in charge and the right were still confident and united. I can see parallels with 1928 when Al Smith first cobbled together the alliance of northern liberals and southern Democrats that Rooseveldt would later lead to victory. He massively increased the Democrat vote but was beaten by a corresponding turnout of redneck protestants who hated the idea of a Catholic president. Now the Republicans are tearing themselves apart.
    I only wish that those who are now flocking to Obama and Clinton could get an administration that actually did something for them: got them decent healthcare; ended the war. They won’t of course. But that’s another story. At least we can enjoy the psephological spectacle, and this is a particularly fascinating one.

  29. Ferny , perhaps its reasonable for you to argue the head to head Polls of say McCain vs Obama normally needs to be ignored at this stage.

    However the Poll trends for over a year have shown a very consistent narrowing of the gap for Obama …in fact he now has a narrow lead.

    And that most of Obama’s gains have been from Independents and “soft” Republicans who were the groups McCain had previously captured.
    Its the very voter blocks Hillary is weak in. Its a view

  30. You mean FG “forgettery”, I had to check to see whether it was a made up word… It isn’t but not well used. Mind you I tend to find on this blog that there are a lot of unknown words. As Paul Keating once said,” You must of swallowed a F$%#*n dictionary”. πŸ™‚

  31. Please.
    Will my fellow left wingers please stop bitch slapping each other trying to play out some high brow intellectual to & throw. KR & GG please take it some where else as its really gone off topic. Its 0 / 0 so far!

    I have enjoyed this evenings Foreign Correspondent on Hillary’s tilt at the Presidency. Lets see what numbers will come up tomorrow from the States.

  32. KR @ 103,
    Not sure if I agree with your logic about Reagan – after all, it’s only Americans that vote, and nearly all Republicans and plenty of independents as well would still like Reagan, I reckon.
    On the war, McCain’s position is fraught with danger – if the war turns sour(er) he could be up the creek. But again, if the “surge” is still viewed positively in November (unlikely perhaps, but who knows?), his position might be a plus.
    They elected George twice – therefore no reason to think McCain is unelectable. Apart from anything else, he’d have to be a lot smarter than Bush!

  33. Ron @ 144. You may end up being right, of course. But I think the narrowing you speak of is a reflection of Obama’s growing recognition factor and may not, at this stage, tell us much about preferred President. The electorate really isn’t focussed on that question yet. So the head to head polls are interesting sideshows at this stage. They will become more valuable under the intense scrutiny of the real campaign.

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