It will be the most super Super Tuesday ever. The term came into use back in the 1980s--the Democrats had eleven contests in 1984 (the Republicans had unopposed president Ronald Reagan, of course). The Dems had twenty-one contests in 1988; the Republicans, sixteen. But this is the biggest: twenty-three primaries and caucuses for the Democrats, twenty-one for the GOP.
The Democrats will be choosing 1,681 delegates, 42% of the total, 83% of the majority needed to win. The Republicans' numbers are similar--1,014 delegates, 43% of the total, 85% of the majority needed to win.
The rules differ from party to party and state to state. In California, the biggest prize, the Democratic primary is open, independents can vote in it. The Republican primary is closed--registered party members only, please.
Will Super Tuesday decide the nominees? Maybe. It's more likely to pick a Republican than a Democrat. That's because the Republican contests are often winner-take-all. In California, again, delegates pledged to a candidate are winner-take-all by Congressional district, except for a few who are running statewide, but they're winner-take-all, too. The Democrats use proportional representation; if you get at least 15% of the vote in the district, you get some of its delegates. It isn't always very proportional, though. In a four-delegate district, you could get more than fifty percent of the vote, but still only two of the delegates.
Handicapping? Hillary Clinton is favored in New York, her sort-of home state. Polls have her ahead in other biggies--California and Illinois, for instance. But Obama is believed to be gaining in many. His recent flurry of endorsements--Edward and Caroline Kennedy, Maria Shriver Schwarzenegger, the governor's wife in California--surely won't hurt. Voters who still don't know much about Obama may think--hey, with folks like those behind him, he must be okay.
On the Republican side, Mike Huckabee insists he's still in. He won Iowa with strong support among Christian evangelicals, and there are plenty of those in some of the Super Tuesday states--Alabama, for instance. But Huckabee has shown little life since Iowa. The GOP race now seems a two-man affair also, with John McCain, whose campaign was moribund last summer, favored over Mitt Romney. Some conservatives can't stand McCain--wrong on immigration, on campaign finance reform--but he does seem to be the frontrunner this week.
And if no one wins, it goes on, of course. Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia vote next Tuesday; Ohio and Texas, March 4th, and so on. Ain't we got fun?