Beginners’ guide to Super Tuesday 2020 – a big turning point in the US election

The race to select the candidate to take on Donald Trump for the presidency of the United States is about to get interesting.

Super Tuesday is the biggest night in the Primary season, where Americans get to decide who will represent their party in November's general election .

And the race to be the Democrat nominee in 2020 is full of big characters, bitter rivalries and arguments over the future of the party.

With more than a dozen states set to pick their winners on one night, the course of the entire election could change.

Here's everything you need to know about Super Tuesday and state of the US election campaign.


  • 'Democratic socialist' Bernie Sanders looks set for battle with Donald Trump

  • US Presidential elections 2020: Democrat candidates set to face Trump

What is Super Tuesday?

Super Tuesday is – as its name suggests – the biggest night of the US primary campaign.

After a series of one-off primary elections in states like Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada – Tuesday night some 14 states and one overseas territory will go to the polls to decide on their preferred candidates for the general election.

Which states are involved?

  • Alabama
  • American Samoa (Caucus)
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia

When will the results be in?

Polls close between 7pm and 8.30pm Eastern Time, which is between midnight and 1.30am our time.

American Samoa is holding a caucus, which is weird and complicated, so it's likely to be quite late before results come in – so while results will be dropping in throughout the night, we might not have all the numbers until 5 or 6am.

Primaries and caucuses

Before each general election, the major parties pick a candidate to run for President. This is done through an excruciatingly long process of primary elections and caucuses, which can last twice as long as the election campaign itself.

Party members in each of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, the American Virgin Islands and Guam vote for their favoured candidate in either a primary election – a regular 'secret ballot' style election held across the state – or a caucus, where party members express their preferences more publicly in school halls and community centres.

On Super Tuesday, Alaska, Colorado, Minnesota and Wyoming are deciding their nominations with caucuses.

Delegates

Each state has a certain number of delegates at the party's National Convention, decided by party based on the population of the state.

These delegates are "awarded" to presidential candidates based either on a "winner take all" principle, or proportionally based on vote share.

Superdelegates

Just to make it even more confusing, there are a certain number of delegates from each state who can pledge to whichever candidate they like.

They tend to be office holders, ex-presidents, members of congress, committee members and state chairs.

The Conventions

The end of primary season, and the beginning of the election proper is marked by each party's National Convention.

These are similar to party conferences in this country, but on a much grander scale.

The multi-day, stadium-sized events are filled with speeches from party grandees, congressmen and presidential candidates.

The Conventions build up to an often dramatic floor vote, which decides which candidate the party will nominate for the presidential race.

Why does Super Tuesday matter?

It's got the potential to make or break candidates for the presidency.

Democrats need 880 delegates to ensure a win, and a third of those are available on Super Tuesday.

Which states are the most important?

Texas and California are the big ones.

The lone star state has a whopping 252 delegates available for the Democrats.

California – taking part in Super Tuesday for the first time – has 415.

Candidates will be playing for them in a big way.

Who's running in 2020?

Who is running in 2020?

Poll numbers (in brackets) are from the latest RealClearPolitics polling average.

Democrats

Bernie Sanders (29.2%)

Bernie Sanders is the US Senator from Vermont, and if you want the easy comparison, he's America's answer to Jeremy Corbyn .

He's left-wing, independently minded, anti-war and, let's face it, an older gentleman.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, 78-year-old Bernie Sanders has been a congressman since 1991. He served first in the House, then in the Senate as an independent, before joining the Democratic Party in 2015 in order to run for the Presidency.

He's a socialist – favouring higher taxes, free education and universal healthcare.

Joe Biden (18.0%)

Vice President to Barack Obama for eight years, Joe Biden was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Yes, the home of Dunder Mifflin.

Despite relentless attacks by Donald Trump – which essentially landed the President in impeachment – he's a popular figure in the party, and among the frontrunners in the primary.

He's seen as an establishment figure, representing the moderates in the party.

Michael Bloomberg(14.4%)

Billionaire founder and CEO of massive financial news service Bloomberg.

Served three terms as Mayor of New York City – two as a Republican, one as an independent.

But before running for mayor he'd been a lifelong Democrat, and it's to that party he's returned for his 2020 Presidential run.

A lot of people in the Democratic party are asking whether the answer to one New York billionaire in the White House is another, slightly richer New York Billionaire.

Elizabeth Warren (12.4%)

The Senior Senator from Massachusetts been a strong voice of opposition during Donald Trump's time in office.

And she's been doing well in the TV debates – despite becoming a target for rivals in the early months of the campaign.

Her big proposals have been free public college tuition and eliminating student loan debt, as well as a $20.5 trillion universal healthcare proposal.

Pete Buttigieg (10%)

Known as "Mayor Pete", Pete Buttigieg is the Mayor of South Bend Indiana.

He was supposed to be a long-shot, but did exceptionally well in the early campaign TV debates – and now some polls are putting him in position to win in Iowa.

He's big on electoral reform, health insurance reform and tougher gun laws. He's progressive, but anchored in the centre-left.

Amy Klobuchar(5.4%)

A Minnesota senator and lawyer.

She's known as a pragmatist, and is seen as a "rising star" of the Party.

And she gained her most significant exposure during her questioning of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in 2018.

Having explained to Kavanaugh that she had lived with an alcoholic father, she asked him if he'd ever blacked out from booze. This did not go down well with the nominee, who angrily asked her if she had. He later apologised.

Republicans

As we say, the Republican candidate is almost certainly going to be Donald J Trump.

But there is one guy challenging him across the country on Super Tuesday – Bill Weld, the former Governor of Massachusetts.

But he's not going to win.

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