Iowa. New Hampshire. Nevada. South Carolina. Until now, the presidential primaries have been coming on in drips and drabs, with momentum changing race after race. Now, Super Tuesday is almost here, and the election is really getting underway.
On March 1, there will be 13 election contests across the country as both parties in most cases primary, caucus or just meet up to select (or not select) a preferred candidate.
"Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia will hold primaries for both parties," reports NOLA.com. "Alaska will hold its Republican caucus while American Samoa will caucus for Democrats. Colorado will also hold a caucus for both parties, but with a small twist. While the Democratic caucus will occur under typical circumstances, Republicans chose not to pick a preferred candidate, leaving their delegates to decide at the national convention."
With so many states up for grabs and, as a result, so many delegates, the day will be a make or break for many presidential campaigns. Over on the Republican side, frontrunner Donald Trump could have a chance to put away the nomination by picking up enough decisive victories to show he really is unstoppable. The biggest coup for him would be a win in Texas, Sen. Ted Cruz's home state, a pickup that could be a possibility based on recent polls where he trails the hometown favorite by a mere one point, although other polling has Cruz with a wider margin.
In a bizarre twist for candidates running for the nomination, both Cruz and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who have been duking it out for second place in each of the contests after Iowa, seem to consider losing Super Tuesday a foregone conclusion. Instead, every non-Trump candidate appears to be gearing up simply to scrape as many of the proportionally doled out delegates as possible, both to blunt Trump's lead and give leverage should the party end up in a brokered convention this summer.
"In a clear admission of Trump's dominant standing following decisive back-to-back primary victories, his top two rivals - Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio - are not even pretending they can best the billionaire mogul on March 1, or Super Tuesday, when 11 states hold primaries or caucuses," reports the Washington Post. "Cruz hopes to win his home state of Texas, but otherwise he and Rubio, as well as John Kasich and Ben Carson, are charting strategies to accrue convention delegates by surgically targeting slivers of the states."
While the role of spoiler (or spoilers) appears to be wide open, the GOP race itself could be mostly wrapped up after Super Tuesday's results come in, according to some pundits and politicians. "Sen. Bob Corker believes the Republican nominating contest could be all but over in a week," reports Roll Call. "'I think March 1 is going to be a highly definitive day relative to the outcome of this race,' the Tennessee Republican said Wednesday."
That may be true, but the party establishment still has some last minute kneecapping to send Trump's way. In what may be the absolute height of irony, 2012 failed Republican nominee Mitt Romney is hitting Trump on not releasing his taxes to the public for scrutiny. Failure to release his own taxes when asked was just one of the campaign mistakes that led to Romney's own presidential race loss.
Republicans aren't the only ones whose race might be mostly settled by Wednesday morning. Democrats are also looking at an election contest day that could either establish the likely nominee or project a campaign season that may last all the way to the DNC convention.
With a likely win in South Carolina on Saturday, and a five point victory in Nevada the week before, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is looking at the dozen diverse caucuses and primaries on Tuesday as a way to show once and for all that she has momentum and appeals to a more diverse body of voters than her rival, Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
Sanders, who has had massive fundraising success and huge crowds, performed strongly in Iowa caucuses and blew Clinton away in New Hampshire's primary, but his appeal to new voters and especially younger voters has yet to overcome Clinton's lead with minorities and those outside the millennial demographic.
For Sanders, Super Tuesday will be his chance to show that he can bring in the multi-racial, multi-age, multi-gender, multi-economic coalition that the Democrats will need in November both to keep the White House and flip the Senate back into party control. That could be a daunting task, with most of the states voting Tuesday being not his demographic strengths.
"There hasn't been a great deal of polling in the Super Tuesday states, so we don't have a complete picture of what might happen. And of course, things could change over the next week," writes the Washington Post. "But we can get a hint from a series of polls recently released by Public Policy Polling, which included primary voters in nine of these 11 states (Colorado and Minnesota were the exceptions). In seven of the nine - Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia - Clinton was ahead, by margins ranging from tiny (2 percent in Oklahoma) to overwhelming (34 percent in Georgia). Sanders led only in Massachusetts and his home state of Vermont. Many of these states are also heavy with the African-American voters with whom Clinton does particularly well."
Still, there will be 974 delegates up for grabs, and none of the states are winner take all, so it will be impossible for Clinton, even in a sweep, to score enough delegates to put the nomination away. Not even with her massive lead in super delegates, which changes the race from a tied one to one where she is over 400 delegates ahead. Even with Clinton wins in most states, the delegates divvied out could leave the pledged delegate counts within striking distance of each other. Yet without a significant number of state victories to tout heading into the next round of contests, it's difficult to see Sanders being able to justify remaining in the race. For his candidacy to stay viable, he needs to show that he wins states, not that he wins delegates, and Super Tuesday is the event where he must make that happen.
Super Tuesday is Tuesday, March 1, and we will have results and analysis on Wednesday.