Super Tuesday, the biggest day of the US presidential primary season, arrives early next month and promises to have a decisive if perhaps somewhat anticlimactic impact on the respective Republican and Democratic races.
As it stands, Donald Trump looks all but certain to be the GOP’s presidential candidate once again in 2024, having already chalked up big wins in the Iowa and US Virgin Islands caucuses and the New Hampshire and Nevada primaries.
All but one of his challengers have fallen away, leaving only the well-funded but under-performing ex-UN ambassador Nikki Haley still swinging.
But even she may not make it to Super Tuesday (although she has promised she will), as the next Republican primary takes place in her home state of South Carolina and current polling indicates the Palmetto State’s former governor could be in for another trouncing on her home turf, a further humiliation after she scored fewer votes than the “none of these candidates” box on Nevada ballot papers.
“Is there any way we can call the election for next Tuesday?” a cocky Mr Trump gloated on stage in Las Vegas after that result.
“That’s all I want. I want to call the election for next Tuesday.”
However, if Ms Haley can somehow conjure a surprise victory in either South Carolina on 24 February or Michigan on 27 February, it will be game on for Super Tuesday and we could find ourselves with a very interesting evening indeed.
The Democratic contest is looking equally one-sided, with President Joe Biden seemingly nailed-on to be his party’s candidate again as he seeks a second term in the White House, despite concerns about his advanced age and consistently poor polling.
Following the withdrawal of Marianne Williamson, Minnesota congressman Dean Phillips remains the president’s last remaining rival and is surely too low-profile to make an impact, President Biden having comfortably won the New Hampshire primary without even appearing on Granite State ballots thanks to a grassroots write-in campaign.
Here’s everything you need to know about Super Tuesday in good time for its arrival.
What is it?
The phrase “Super Tuesday” has been in use since at least 1976 and marks the day on the calendar in which the greatest number of states hold primaries so that their voters can choose their preferred presidential candidates.
With 15 states typically taking part, the occasion offers candidates a chance to definitively stamp their mark on the race for their party’s nomination and often serves to convince their rivals that they no longer have a convincing path to victory and should suspend their campaigns.
When is it?
This year, the big day falls on Tuesday 5 March.
It has been held in February in the past but it is usually in early March and always after the designated early voting states have had their say.
Which states are taking part?
Fifteen states and one territory are all staging Republican and Democratic primaries on Super Tuesday this year.
They are: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Virginia, with American Samoa also joining the party.
In addition, the Democratic contest will also take in votes from registered Democrats living abroad and from the Northern Mariana Islands and finally produce an answer as to who won Iowa, as the mail-in votes that have been rolling in for several weeks in that state are counted and compiled (but don’t hold your breath: it will almost certainly be President Biden).
While most polls close at around 7pm or 8pm, the results are not typically announced until much later in the evening, with some of the bigger states involved like California and Texas taking longer to count ballots.
How many delegates will be awarded?
With so many states involved, Super Tuesday is the date on which the most delegates for the summer Republican and Democratic conventions are awarded.
This year, 874 of the Republican Party’s 2,429 delegates, about 36 per cent, will be awarded on 5 March, as will 1,439, or around 30 per cent, of Democratic delegates.
Ahead of the South Carolina and Michigan primaries, Mr Trump currently has 63, Ms Haley 17 and Texas pastor Ryan Binkley zero, while former candidates Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy picked up nine and three respectively in Iowa before they dropped out.
Mr Trump is therefore off to a good start in his pursuit of the 1,215 he needs to secure the GOP nomination.
In the Democratic race, President Biden has 91 of the 1,968 delegates he needs to be confirmed as the nominee. Mr Phillips has zero.
While Super Tuesday is hugely significant, a strong performance from a candidate does not necessarily translate to a presidential election win the following November: Democrat John Kerry dominated the day’s primaries 20 years ago but ended up losing out to Republican George W Bush nationally.
How can I follow Super Tuesday?
The Independent will bring you all the latest results in our dedicated liveblog as well as all the breakout stories across our site and social media channels on what promises to be a busy, if not altogether surprising day.
The major US news networks including CNN, MSNBC and Fox News will also be providing live coverage throughout the day to keep track of the national picture.