Super Tuesday is finally here. To help make sense of it all, I've compiled a guide to today's Republican races, grouped according to the time (in Eastern time) that primary polls close. States selecting delegates by caucus or convention have to wait their turn.
Why no state-by-state discussion of the Democratic races? Because they're not different enough to be worth sifting. All of the Democratic races allocate delegates by some variation on a proportional representation system -- the closer the results, the more evenly delegates will be split.
Either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton has to win across many states by large margins if the Democratic race is going to be settled any time soon. Which is why many observers believe that it won't be. The Republicans could be a very different story:
Georgia -- John McCain has a slight lead over Mitt Romney in the polls, with Huckabee close behind. Georgia's 72 delegates will be allocated according to a hybrid system, with 33 delegates going to the statewide winner and 3 delegates to the winner in each of 13 congressional districts. The results in Georgia could give a hint as to what's going to happen later in the night, especially in other Southern states.
Connecticut, New Jersey -- These are winner-take-all states, with 27 and 52 delegates, respectively. McCain is expected to win both of them easily.
Massachusetts -- Romney will win here, but unfortunately for him these 43 delegates will be allocated proportionally.
Alabama -- This is a proportional-allocation state with 48 delegates; the polls show McCain in the lead with Huckabee in second.
Illinois -- McCain has a commanding lead in the polls here, with Romney in second. Illinois's delegates are selected by an unusual system: Between 2 and 4 delegates are elected in each congressional district (the number depends on relative strength of support for the GOP nominee in the last presidential election), for a total of 57 delegates; the other 13 delegates are selected at a convention in June. Oddly enough, the popular vote that candidates receive is entirely advisory; all of Illinois's delegates go to the convention technically unpledged.
Oklahoma -- Like Georgia, Oklahoma gives a bloc of delegates to the statewide winner and a bloc of delegates to the winner each congressional district. The polls have shown a lot of variation, though most seem to be pointing toward a victory for McCain with Huckabee in second.
Tennessee -- McCain is leading in the polls, with Huckabee in second. Thirty-nine of Tennessee's 55 delegates will be allocated proportionally (the system is actually slightly different from other proportional systems -- it becomes winner-take-all if a candidate gets more than two thirds of the vote -- but in this election that won't matter). The others will be selected by the State Executive Committee in March.
Missouri, Delaware -- If there's a surprise this hour, these are the places to look for it. They're both winner-take-all, with 58 and 18 delegates, respectively. The latter hasn't been polled very much, though the one recent poll there showed a lead for McCain over Romney. In the former, the polls also show a lead for McCain -- this time over Huckabee, with Romney not far behind -- but not a huge one.
Arkansas -- No polling organization is even bothering to do surveys here, presumably because they assume that the huge leads that Huckabee held in his home state a few months ago will hold. There are 34 delegates from Arkansas. If Huckabee wins a majority of the vote, he will take all but a few delegates; if he doesn't they'll be allocated proportionally.
Arizona, New York -- More winner-take-all victories for McCain, with 50 and 87 delegates determined by the election. New York will also send 14 officially unpledged delegates, and Arizona will also send 3 unpledged. McCain can probably count those toward his total, too.
Utah -- Romney easily wins 36 delegates in the only winner-take-all state that he can count on.
California -- You can think of California as 54 winner-take-all contests. The statewide winner gets 11 delegates, and the winner of each of 53 congressional districts gets 3 delegates. The polls show Romney surging in the Golden State. But it matters quite a bit where he's surging.
Who Knows When
West Virginia -- The first result of the day will probably come out of the Republican state presidential convention here, which will send 18 delegates to the national convention (another 9 will be selected by primary vote on May 13). Delegates to the state convention were elected in county conventions; sizeable numbers of them are committed to Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and Ron Paul, but many were either elected as uncommitted or as supporters of a candidate who has dropped out of the race. John McCain has only one committed delegate attending the state convention. Romney is the favorite here, but a Huckabee upset isn't impossible.
Montana -- Montana will be holding county committee caucuses, open to about 1,800 Republicans, many of whom have signed up for precinct jobs just to earn the privilege of participating in this caucus. The winner -- no one seems to have any idea who that will be, though Romney has been organizing in Montana the longest -- gets all 25 of Montana's delegates.
North Dakota -- North Dakota's 26 delegates will be allocated proportionally based on the results of the caucuses here (unless a candidate gets more than two thirds of the vote, in which case it becomes winner-take-all). There hasn't been any polling done here.
Alaska -- Though the Alaska district caucuses are getting lumped in with the rest of the the Super Tuesday states in much of the news coverage, they don't actually select the delegates to the national convention. What they do is select the delegates to the state convention, who in turn select the delegates to the national convention. Delegates elected today may or may not be pledged to a candidate.
Minnesota -- Like the district caucuses in Alaska, the Minnesota precinct caucuses don't directly determine delegates to the national convention. Delegates will be elected to the "Basic Political Organization Unit" Conventions, the BPOU conventions elect delegates to both the congressional district conventions and the state convention, and those conventions select delegates to the national convention. (Got all that?) There will be an advisory presidential preference straw poll during today's caucuses -- the one poll that's been taken recently shows a lead for McCain -- but it's not immediately clear how that will translate to the delegate count.
To win the nomination, a candidate needs 1,191 delegates locked up. McCain currently has 102, Romney has 69, and Huckabee has 27. (All of these numbers will be a bit higher if sanctions the RNC imposed on states for holding early contests are not enforced.)
There's no doubt that John McCain will have a plurality of delegates after today. The only question is whether his lead will be so great that he can't be caught.
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