Super Tuesday 2020:
What to Expect

 By Noah Gallagher
Thursday, September 26, 2019


If you happen to have visited Iowa or New Hampshire recently, you might have run into one of the many Democrats striving for the 2020 presidential nomination. They’re currently spending time and campaign resources in these two states for one simple reason: they have the first primary votes of the 2020 cycle, consisting of the Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire Primary. Candidates who win these early primaries have a tendency to win in later elections. Building momentum, and building it quickly, will be the key to surviving the early states.

All eyes are on these two states (and the next two, Nevada and South Carolina), but the real focus should be on Super Tuesday. Held on March 3rd, just a month after the Iowa caucuses, many expect this day to be the most consequential of the primary election.

The Democratic primaries and caucuses determine how many delegates from each state will go to the Democratic National Convention to vote for each candidate. To win the nomination, a candidate needs to get more than half of these delegates. Super Tuesday is important because a huge number of votes are cast, determining a large portion of the delegates in a single day. As of today, the first four states hold roughly 4% of the total delegates - Super Tuesday has 36%.

 
 

On the docket for Super Tuesday are the two largest states for the Democrats in terms of primary delegates and the number of Democrats voting: California and Texas. California has historically held its primary at a later date, but former Governor Jerry Brown pushed it up for the 2020 primaries. The California primary is expected to receive more attention this cycle, placing extra pressure on candidates who cannot afford to compete in it. Experts expect that it could cost upwards of five million dollars to remain competitive in California.[1]

Texas has seen a spike in Democratic Party members, now surpassing New York in the number of delegates it will send to the convention. On the same day as these two behemoths, there are primaries for North Carolina, Virginia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Colorado, Tennessee, Alabama, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Utah, Maine, and Vermont on the same day. Results will also be returned from the Democrats Abroad primary, which includes Americans living outside of the United States. American Samoa is also scheduled to have its caucus on Super Tuesday.[2]

To remain competitive, candidates must choose how to distribute their campaign resources. Depending upon the amount of cash on hand, some will have to make the hard choice to focus on specific states or drop out entirely. Only the top few candidates will have the money to fight in every state, especially in large states with expensive ad markets. Without enough money to promote their messaging, campaigns are almost guaranteed to fail. 

 
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Strategically, presidential contenders must clear several bars to stay in the race. They must place high enough in the first two to four states to show voters that they are viable candidates. Voters are unlikely to support a candidate who they feel does not stand a chance, highlighting how crucial it is for candidates to win early. Candidates who do show success early on, or who seem to have a polling or geographical advantage, will stay in the race until Super Tuesday; they will work to rapidly raise money and advertise in at least a dozen states at once. According to primary rules, a candidate must break 15% in a given state to get any convention delegates from that state. Candidates who cannot pass this benchmark in the big, early states - big and early referring to states like Texas and California, which have a high number of delegates and vote on Super Tuesday - have few paths toward nomination and will eventually have to drop out of the race.

Washington and Lee’s Mock Convention will only know the results from Iowa and New Hampshire before making its prediction in February. The vote on March 3rd could lead to the emergence of a frontrunner or the start of a long and drawn-out election. Either way, the pressure is on to get it right.


[1]Riccardi, Nicholas. “California Moves up Primary, Wants Bigger Impact 2020 Vote.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 27 Dec. 2018, www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/california-moves-up-primary-wants-bigger-impact-2020-vote.

[2]Almukhtar, Sarah, et al. “2020 Presidential Election Calendar.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 13 May 2019, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/us/elections/2020-presidential-election-calendar.html.