Candidates focus on Super Tuesday

By Paolo Cisneros

Few days in primary election season will be as telling or important to candidates and their supporters as Feb. 5, also known as Super Tuesday, a day in which more than 20 states will hold the elections and caucuses that often determine which two candidates will go on to compete for the White House.

The modern Super Tuesday has its roots in the 1988 presidential campaign. Delegates from a group of southern states felt that the earlier primaries and caucuses had a disproportionate influence on the campaign, so they arranged to have their primary elections on the same day in the hopes that it would help level the playing field.

This year, Democratic candidates will be competing in 22 states, while their Republican counterparts will hold contests in 21 states.

When people vote in their state primary, they vote for a candidate as well as his or her delegates. Those elected delegates go on to attend the party’s national conventions and officially nominate their candidate.

Delegates are awarded either on a winner-take-all basis or based on the percentage of votes any particular candidate receives. Republicans generally use the former process, whereas Democrats employ the latter.

On the Democratic side of the race, 1,681 delegates, 52 percent of all delegates pledged, are up for grabs.

State Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, is a Barack Obama delegate. He said that, while the role of delegates at the national conventions is largely symbolic, the fact that recent primaries have been so split could force a more important role onto those delegates.

“In recent years there’s really not been any drama at all, but should (the candidates) continue to battle it out as they have been you could have a split convention,” he said. “If that’s the case, the delegates will play a much bigger part in determining who is going to get the nomination.”

“Now it’s a delegate race,” Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs told the Associated Press. “This isn’t going to be judged on, ‘I won six states, you won this amount of states.'”

The Republican race has yet to see a clear front-runner emerge, and, as such, the 975 delegates available to the candidates take on extra importance. Making up 41 percent of the total number available, Republican candidates are focusing their efforts on winning the greatest number of states possible.

John McCain is directing his resources in large part toward Arizona, West Virginia, North Dakota and Colorado. Mike Huckabee is hoping to do well in southern states, such as Arkansas, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.

Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate with the greatest amount of available funding, is focusing his attention on states such as Massachusetts and Utah.

No campaign can afford to aggressively advertise in every contested state, so resources and their distribution are important to ensuring a successful day on Feb. 5.

“I don’t know how we’re going to do it. I don’t know how they’re going to do it,” Bill Clinton told a group of reporters before leaving South Carolina on Saturday.