Here's Why Everyone In Politics Freaks Out About Super Tuesday

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The Feb. 29 South Carolina primary is all that stands between the Democratic candidates and Super Tuesday, one of the biggest days in the presidential election cycle. Why is Super Tuesday important? On Tuesday, March 3, voters in 14 states, plus American Samoa, will head to the polls. More than 1,300 delegates for the Democratic National Convention will be up for grabs, which means there's a lot at stake.

Heading into the Feb. 29 primary in South Carolina — the last nominating contest before Super Tuesday — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is the Democratic frontrunner, with 45 pledged delegates from the Iowa and Nevada caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. South Carolina will be the first time the Democratic candidates will really be tested by black voters, who make up nearly 60% of the Democratic Party's electorate in the state.

But after South Carolina comes Super Tuesday, when a wide variety of states will have their say. Democratic strongholds like Massachusetts and California — which, with 415 Democratic delegates, awards the largest number of delegates in the country — will join Republican-leaning states like Texas and Oklahoma in voting for their candidates of choice. American Samoa's caucus will also take place on Super Tuesday, and Democrats Abroad — an official Democratic Party organization for Americans living outside the country — will kick off their week-long primary on that day as well. Super Tuesday will therefore be a critical moment in the Democratic primaries, and could illustrate where Democratic voters stand on issues like health care, climate change, and immigration.

According to The Washington Post, Super Tuesday originated in the 1970s and '80s, when Southern Democrats wanted to elect a more moderate candidate who party leaders thought would stand a good chance of winning a general election. These moderate Democrats thought that by holding Southern state primaries all at once at an earlier date, they would have more influence on the outcome of the Democratic primary, per TIME.

But in 2020, Super Tuesday doesn't look the same as it did in the 1980s. Now, a variety of states with increasingly diverse voter bases choose to hold their primaries on Super Tuesday, which according to The Washington Post, could help assess where voters from each party stand on key issues. In the 2020 election, President Donald Trump is not facing any major Republican challengers, so there isn't a great deal at stake for him on Super Tuesday. But for Democrats, Super Tuesday is a chance for struggling campaigns — like those of former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren — to make a comeback. It is also a chance for Sanders to cement his status as the Democratic frontrunner and potentially win an insurmountable number of delegates, per Politico.

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Not only that, but also Super Tuesday will be the first time that former New York mayor and billionaire media mogul Mike Bloomberg will appear on the ballot. Bloomberg — who has already spent more than $500 million on campaign ads — chose to skip the first four primaries and caucuses in favor of concentrating on Super Tuesday states. Super Tuesday will test Bloomberg's viability and popularity as a Democratic candidate, especially after recent criticism from Warren about Bloomberg's allegedly racist policing policies as mayor and his alleged sexist comments about women who worked at his eponymous media company. Bloomberg did not respond to a previous request for comment from Elite Daily about Warren's criticisms.

The states and territories holding Democratic primaries and caucuses on Super Tuesday will award a total of 1,357 delegates — which is nearly 70% of the 1,991 delegates any given Democratic candidate would need to win their party's nomination outright at the Democratic National Convention. As progressive and moderate Democrats alike try to redefine what the Democratic Party stands for, the stakes going into Super Tuesday are exceptionally high.