With Super Tuesday upon us, the Republican Party's presidential primary race is in full swing, and today could prove pivotal—either by lending support to Mitt Romney's presumed "frontrunner" status or by leveling the playing field among the candidates.
The concept of Super Tuesday originated during the elections of 1984 and 1988, when many states began holding caucuses and primaries on the same Tuesday in early March. In particular, southern states participated in these simultaneous events in order to increase their region's significance.
Historically, the results of Super Tuesday have often established which candidates ultimately receive their party's nomination. For instance, after losing early primary contests in 1992, Bill Clinton cemented his status as "The Comeback Kid" when he won many Southern states on Super Tuesday, later cinching the Democratic nomination and the presidency. Likewise, in 1996, Bob Dole sealed the Republican nomination after sweeping all seven states holding primaries on Super Tuesday.
The last presidential election's Super Tuesday, February 5, 2008, became the largest presidential primary election day in U.S. history as 24 states held caucuses or primaries. While this quasi national primary—dubbed "Super Duper Tuesday" for the vast number of delegates at stake—had the potential to set up a situation in which party nominations were sealed only a few weeks after the official kickoff of the 2008 primary season, the results of the contests left open the possibility of contested political conventions. Barack Obama, who won fewer delegates on Super Tuesday than close competitor Hillary Rodham Clinton, ultimately won the Democratic nomination. Super Tuesday did provide a boost to eventual Republican nominee John McCain, who came in first in nine of the contests in a strong showing .
More than 400 Republican delegates are at stake in this year's Super Tuesday contest, or about one third of the total delegates needed to lock up the party's presidential nomination. The outcome in today's Super Tuesday contests in Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia could put the GOP on the path to a clear nominee at its August nominating convention in Florida—or Super Tuesday could help put the GOP on the path to a contested nominating convention.
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