History of Super Tuesday
Posted February 07, 2008 at 04:00pm by Chronicler
"Super Tuesday" is a term referring to a day on which several states hold primaries and caucuses to choose delegates to the national nominating conventions of the Republican and Democratic Parties. The day has had a twisty history since the term "Super Tuesday" was coined in 1976.
Super Tuesday serves several purposes. The large number of delegates at stake means that sometimes one candidate has moved into a substantial lead (never a majority if ST is held early in the primary season). As a result, ST filters out candidacies that will not result in the nomination. ST thus serves the purpose of either deciding on the nominee or at least reducing the field. In several cases, well-funded challenges continued past ST.
Interestingly enough, the number of states voting on ST varies widely. The recent low was just seven in 1996, though in 1988, 16 states voted on ST. The variation in states participating is due to the ability of the states to set their primary dates and the response by politicians to the last ST.
In addition to ST, several regional primaries have been held. This includes the set of nine states holding the "Stupid Tuesday" primaries of 2000 - just one week after ST decided the contest in both parties.
One last comment. In 1988, when 16 states held primaries on ST, the results did not meet the expectations of the national party leaders. Later Super Tuesday were scaled back, and it was not until 2000 that more than 10 states voted on ST. The number of participating states then dropped again in 2004 but rose to an all-time high of 24 in 2008.
The following is a quick overview of all "Super Tuesday" primaries.
6/6/1972 - Though the term did not exist, four states held primaries on the same day for the first time since 1916: CA, NJ, NM, and SD.
-- Republican: Nixon 83% - he already had a majority of the delegates
-- Democratic: McGovern 43%, Humphrey 37%. McGovern's strong finish, especially in CA, was his green light for the nomination.
5/25/1976 - Six states voted: AR, ID, KY, NV, OR, and TN. The NYT used the term "super-Tuesday" to describe the event on 5/9/1976.
-- Republican: Reagan 52%, Ford 46%. Reagan's surge late in the primary season paid off with a string of victories just before the all-important California primary.
-- Democratic: Carter 52%, Church 13%, Wallace 10%, Brown 9%. With these victories, Carter moved from a regional candidate to a national candidate. Though Church won several primaries, his national weakness was felt. Brown, the latecomer to the race, also noticeably underperformed.
6/3/1980 - Nine states voted: CA, MS, MT, NJ, NM, OH, RI, SD, and WV. The day was called "Super Tuesday." The quotations surrounding the name of the day survived until 1984, after which the day has simply been called Super Tuesday.
-- Democratic: Kennedy 45%, Carter 42%. Exit polls showed two important facts. First, Democratic voters were very unhappy with President Carter. Second, only 20% of them wanted Kennedy to be the nominee. In fact, one poll showed that 30% of Democrats voting in ST planned to vote for Reagan in the general election. Kennedy's dramatic win in CA pushed him into a popular vote win on ST, but Carter went over the 50% threshhold.
-- Republican: Reagan 81%, Bush 9%. Reagan had long passed the 50% threshhold, but Bush continued his campaign, trying to embarrass Reagan in states with large urban populations.
3/13/1984 - Four states held primaries on this day, shifting ST earlier in the primary season to a weekend it would have until 2008. Although not called ST, five states voted on 6/5/1984 and elected many more delegates.
-- Republican: Reagan 99%. Stassen didn't have any strong states on this day.
-- Democratic: Hart 36%, Mondale 31%, Jackson 13%, Glenn 12%. Hart continued his brief rise, extending the campaign into the latter primaries. Jackson won some unexpected victories. Glenn dropped out of the race after ST - the first true ST victim.
On the "real" ST of 6/5/1984, Hart and Mondale split the Democratic vote 37% to 37% with 19% for Jackson. Hart won the big prize of CA, but Mondale won enough delegates from NJ to pass the 50% mark.
3/8/1988 - The first major ST and the second largest to date. Also the first to be called Super Tuesday without the quotation marks. Sixteen states held primaries: AL, AR, FL, GA, KY, LA, MD, MA, MS, MO, NC, OK, RI, TN, TX, and VA.
-- Republican: Bush 57%, Dole 24%, Robertson 13%. Bush swept all primary states, and Dole dropped out.
-- Democratic: Jackson 27%, Dukakis 27%, Gore 26%, Gephardt 13%. Jackson placed first in terms of popular votes, though it was statistically a three-way tie. Gephardt dropped out, and the real race afterward was between Dukakis and Gore.
3/10/1992 - Eight states voted: FL, LA, MA, MS, OK, RI, TN, and TX. The earlier major ST of 1988 was substituted with a series of four clumps of primaries at the beginning of each month. Note: this system of a few states voting with a month's break in between is far preferable to what happened in 2008.
--Republicans: Bush 69%, Buchanan 27%. Bush moved well along the road to a majority of delegates, but Buchanan dogged him to prove a point to moderate Republicanism.
--Democrats: Clinton 54%, Tsongas 28%, Brown 11%. It was ST in 1992 that propelled Clinton into a first-rate candidate. Tsongas withdrew afterwards.
3/5/1996 - Seven states held primaries, four in New England: CO, GA, ME, MD, MA, RI, and VT. The 1996 primary season also included a southern primary on 3/12 (six states), an industrial primary on 3/19 (four states), and a west coast primary on 3/26 (CA and WA).
-- Democratic: Clinton 88%, LaRouche 4%.
-- Republican: Dole 45%, Buchanan 25%, Forbes 14%, Alexander 10%. Dole's sweeping wins pushed Forbes and Alexander out of the race. Buchanan won a smaller percentage of the votes than four years before, but Republicans were never excited about Dole as a candidate.
3/7/2000 - Eleven states voted: CA, CT, GA, ME, MD, MA, MO, NY, OH, RI, and VT. Nine states voted in the following week, forming the "Stupid Tuesday" primaries in which Bush and Gore won 80% of the popular votes and moved over the 50% mark in terms of delegates.
-- Democratic: Gore 64%, Bradley 23%. Gore swept all states, and Bradley withdrew.
-- Republican: Bush 54%, McCain 38%. Bush won all the important primaries, leaving McCain with victories in New England states certain to vote Democratic in the fall. McCain withdrew on the same day as Bradley.
3/2/2004 - Nine states voted: CA, CT, GA, MD, MA, MN (caucuses), NY, OH, RI, and VT.
-- Republican: Bush 99.8%
-- Democratic: Kerry 60%, Edwards 24%. ST sealed Edwards's fate.
2/5/2008 - Twenty four states voted either in primaries or caucuses.
-- Republican: McCain 41%, Romney 33%, Huckabee 20%. McCain triumphed on ST, winning the critical states to move into a 2:1 lead in delegates over Romney - who dropped out almost exactly 40 years after his father dropped out in 1968. Republican turnout was extremely low in the primaries, falling off dramatically from the contested primaries of 2000.
-- Democratic: Clinton 49%, Obama 48%. For the first time since 1988, the Democrats battled to a draw. Jubilant Democrats flocked to the polls in record numbers - twice the Republican turnout - as they chose between the two survivors of the earlier primary season.