After a month of “early state” contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, “Super Tuesday” -- the biggest day of voting in the 2016 primary -- has arrived. Twelve states total will vote to select a party nominee, plus one U.S. territory for the Democrats. As we’ve seen so far, a race in one state can whittle the field down, so multiple states with hundreds of delegates at stake are potential game-changers. Here’s everything you need to know about what’s at stake, both in general and for the individual candidates.
DEMOCRATS: STATES + TERRITORY VOTING: Alabama, American Samoa, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia
DELEGATES AT STAKE: 1,015
AT STAKE FOR THE CANDIDATES: After a resounding loss in South Carolina that was preceded by a (smaller) loss in Nevada, Bernie Sanders needs to prove that he can win in states with more diverse demographics than Iowa and New Hampshire. Exit polls from South Carolina, where black voters comprise over half of the Democratic electorate, showed him struggling to win this key constituency. He could find that pattern repeating itself in other states with a large population of black voters. A recent NBC/WSJ poll finds Hillary Clinton is trouncing him among likely Democratic voters in Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia and Texas. And while Clinton will likely come out ahead in several states, she still has to prove she is gradually making inroads with white voters (particularly men) and younger voters, who have voted for Sanders by wide margins and whose support could prove crucial to a general election victory.
DELEGATE MATH: A candidate needs to secure 2,383 delegates to clinch the Democratic nomination. After Super Tuesday, a little under 50 percent of that would have been allocated. Clinton is currently leading in both pledged delegates and superdelegates -- unpledged delegates (usually elected officials and party leaders) who can support whomever they want, whenever they want. She is expected to retain that lead after Super Tuesday, but the question will be by how much. Sanders will definitely pick up delegates. While Clinton leads in the South, he is expecting races like Minnesota, Colorado and Massachussetts to be competitive, and the Democratic party's rule that delegates are allocated proportionally once candidates receive over 15 percent of the vote. But if Clinton gets a majority of the pledged delegates and keeps the distance between their counts at a minimum of 100, Sanders may not be able to catch up, especially given her advantage among superdelegates. “That 100 delegate mark -- a lead of that much -- will make it very difficult for Sanders to equalize,” Josh Putnam, a University of Georgia professor who specializes in campaigns and elections, told ABC News.
GOP STATES VOTING: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Vermont
DELEGATES AT STAKE: 595
AT STAKE FOR THE CANDIDATES: An NBC/WSJ poll shows Donald Trump leading the pack in Tennessee and Georgia. A Roanake College poll also has him ahead in Virginia. Although there are still five candidates left in the GOP race, the stakes are highest for Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, who have repeatedly found themselves in second and third place behind Trump. Rubio needs to prove he can beat Trump in a contest and thus provide credence to his argument that he can still mathematically win the nomination. Cruz has two things to prove: that he can hold off a Trump victory in his delegate-rich state of Texas, and that he can retain support among evangelicals across the Southern states. Although evangelicals helped him win Iowa, according to ABC News exit poll analysis, he narrowly lost that vote with Trump in South Carolina, and lost that vote to Trump and Rubio in Nevada, and to Trump in South Carolina.
DELEGATE MATH: Trump has a major advantage over the GOP field in terms of delegates, leading Cruz and Rubio by 65 and 64, respectively. A presumptive nominee needs 1,237 to secure the nomination. For Rubio and Cruz, it is not so much about overtaking Trump in delegates as it is about containing his lead. Putnam estimates that if Trump and Cruz want to remain competitive, they will need to keep Trump’s overall lead to a maximum of 250 delegates. That way, he explained, the two can try and carve a path to the nomination through Ohio and Florida, which are winner-take-all contests, with 66 and 99 delegates respectively. In order to contain Trump’s lead, both Rubio and Cruz need to prevent another “South Carolina” situation, where the delegate allocation was proportional but Trump’s resounding victory resulted in him taking all 50 delegates. They have the opportunity to do this in in states like Georgia and Alabama, where they will automatically receive delegates if they get over 20 percent of the vote. And of course, the bigger Cruz’s lead is in Texas, the more delegates he will amass.