Super Tuesday is arguably the most important voting day of the primaries.
During the March 1 contest, front-runners Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will seek to solidify their leads once and for all, while candidates like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Bernie Sanders will seek to halt the momentum and draw the race out to subsequent state primaries.
From delegate dynamics to jargon used almost exclusively by political insiders, however, the rules of the nearly dozen states holding contests can often seem daunting to navigate.
Gathered below are eight facts about Super Tuesday that campaign-watchers should know heading into the big day.
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1. More than 10 states will hit the polls
— Republicans and Democrats are both holding contests in 10 of the same states: Texas, Massachusetts, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia. Republicans will also hold a caucus in Alaska and Democrats will hold a caucus in Colorado.
2. Super Tuesday is the biggest single day of voting
— Republicans will award 661 delegates on Tuesday, while the Dems will award 865. On the Republican side, a candidate has to win 1,237 delegates, a majority, to secure the nomination ahead of the Cleveland convention in July. According to CBS News
, that means that roughly half of the delegates needed for a GOP win are awarded on this day. On the Democratic side, it's about a third.
3. Texas is the grand prize
— The Lone Star state will award 155 Republican delegates on Tuesday. Cruz, the senator from Texas, has called it the "crown jewel" of the contest. The second- and third-biggest states in terms of delegates are Georgia and Tennessee, which will award 76 and 58 delegates, respectively.
4. What the candidates need
— Cruz is banking on a win in Texas to keep him in contention for the nomination. He's locked up many key in-state endorsements, and has committed a massive ground game to the state.
Meanwhile, Rubio's own campaign said in a recent memo that failing to emerge from Super Tuesday with a delegate lead "will spell the effective end of Senator Rubio's campaign," CBS reported.
Donald Trump leads the polls in most states, however Cruz leads in Texas.
On the Democratic side, Clinton is poised to sweep at least the Southern states after her landslide victory in South Carolina on Saturday.
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5. Super Tuesday is relatively young
— "The phrase 'Super Tuesday' first emerged in 1980, when three southern states — Alabama, Florida, and Georgia — held their primaries on the same day. It grew to nine in 1984," NPR reported
. "But the modern-day Super Tuesday was born in 1988, when a dozen southern states on the Democratic side, upset with the nomination of Walter Mondale four years earlier and frustrated with being out of power in the White House for 20 years, save for one term of Jimmy Carter, banded together to try and nominate someone more moderate."
6. "SEC Primary" is just a nickname
— According to Politico
, "The 'SEC Primary' is a nickname for Super Tuesday and is an ode to the Southeastern Conference, an athletic conference that includes universities in many of the Southern states."
7. Thresholds matter
— "Most Super Tuesday states allocate their delegates proportionally with a threshold of either 15 percent or 20 percent of the vote," Real Clear Politics reported
. "In other words, the state divides up its delegates proportionally between the candidates who surpass the threshold." The thresholds could spell trouble for John Kasich and Ben Carson in particular, who have won very small proportions of the vote in past states.
8. Watch the exit polls, not the entrance polls
— Real Clear Politics urges election watchers to be wary of entrance polls due to their unreliable nature. "If an entrance poll shows your favorite candidate losing (or winning), take it with a grain of salt and wait for real results or exit polls to come in," the publication wrote Monday.
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