Super Tuesday

DEFINITION of 'Super Tuesday'

Super Tuesday refers to the date in the U.S. presidential primary process when the greatest number of states hold their contests. In 2016, March 1 is Super Tuesday, with both Democrats and Republicans holding primaries in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia, and caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota. Republicans are also holding caucuses in Alaska and Wyoming, while Democrats are holding caucuses in American Samoa, a territory. 

BREAKING DOWN 'Super Tuesday'

Super Tuesday is not a set date from cycle to cycle, with the timing and specific states that participate varying greatly. In 2008, 25 states held their contests on the same day, February 5, while only 7 did on March 12, 1996. 

According to NPR, the term "Super Tuesday" has been around since 1980, when Alabama, Florida and Georgia held their primaries on one day. The first true Super Tuesday contest was in 1988, though, when the Democrats attempted to end a string of disappointing presidential elections by concentrating 11 Southern primaries (and 21 primaries altogether) on one date. They hoped that moderate Dixiecrats would choose an electable candidate, but instead the Southern Democratic vote split along racial lines and allowed Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis to secure the nomination. He lost resoundingly to George H. W. Bush in the general election.

In 2016, about half of the 1,237 Republican delegates needed to win the nomination will be up for grabs, while Democrats will apportion 880 delegates, about a third of those needed to win. The contest will be an "SEC Primary," referring to the Southeastern Conference of the NCAA, because it is heavily concentrated in the South. This has particular implications for each party. For the Republicans, it means a higher concentration of evangelical voters. For the Democrats, it means a higher proportion of black voters, as Southern white Democrats have become much rarer since the 1980s.

The Democrats competing for their party's nomination on Super Tuesday 2016 are Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. The Republicans are Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, John Kasich and Donald Trump.  For our latest coverage of the election check out our Election Center for news and background about the candidates' fiscal and tax policies.