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Peter TrubowitzThis Tuesday voters in 13 US states will go to the polls in the most important day of the 2016 election primary season – Super Tuesday. LSE US Centre Director Peter Trubowitz gives an overview of what we should be looking for tomorrow. For the Republican Party, if Donald Trump sweeps more conservative states such as Alabama and Tennessee, it will be an indication that his support is strong and enduring; and on the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders will need to make a strong showing or he may face calls to leave the race.

Super Tuesday is the biggest day of the primary season with 13 states participating from Massachusetts in the East to Alaska in the West, Minnesota in the North and Texas in the South. Slightly more than 36 percent of the Democratic delegates needed to win the nomination (2,382) will be selected tomorrow; roughly 25 percent of the Republican delegates needed to win will similarly be selected (1,237).

What should we be looking for tomorrow?

On the Republican side, I will be looking to see how strong Trump’s support is across the geographic and demographic divides that separate more moderate white collar states like Vermont, Massachusetts and Virginia from more conservative evangelical blue collar states like Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee.  Trump is leading in the polls for every state voting tomorrow, with the possible exception of Texas — Senator Ted Cruz’s home state.  If Trump sweeps these very different parts of the country, it will be an indication of just how strong his support really is.

On the Democratic side I will be looking to see whether Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is able to bounce back from the drubbing he took in the South Carolina primary over the weekend.  He needs to have strong showings in a few states to be able to take his campaign forward.  In addition to his home state of Vermont (where he leads by 70 percent), the states that look most promising for him are Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Minnesota, and Colorado.  Hillary Clinton should take the Deep South handily, so Sanders has to place in these other states; otherwise there will be calls from high ranking Democrats for him to withdraw.

I will also be looking to see how well Hillary Clinton does among young voters — a glaring weakness thus far in the campaign.

Another thing to keep an eye out for on the GOP side is whether Rubio, the darling of the Republican Establishment, is able to capitalise on his debate performance in Houston last Thursday to slow Trump’s advance. A spate of polls over the weekend suggests not. We shall see.

Also, worth keeping an eye on is John Kasich — the Republican Governor from Ohio.  He’s the sleeper in my judgment.  He doesn’t need to win tomorrow, but a strong showing in Massachusetts or Virginia will give him momentum as the race turns to the more moderate Midwestern states over the next couple of weeks where his brand of Republicanism should resonate more with voters.

Lastly, there is a poll out today, showing that 84 percent of Republican voters think Trump can win the general election and significantly, 63 percent of all voters – but the poll was taken before his failure to disavow the support of former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke.  Reaction from both sides of the political aisle has been strong; the issue could continue to dog Trump even after the votes are counted tomorrow.

Featured image credit: Denise Cross Photography (Flickr, CC-BY-2.0)

This article is based on comments on Super Tuesday from Peter Trubowitz in an interview with CNN. Watch the interview. 

The LSE US Centre will be hosting the public discussion ‘The Evening After the Night Before: analysing Super Tuesday’ on the evening of Wednesday March 3rd. More details.

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Note:  This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of USAPP – American Politics and Policy, nor the London School of Economics.

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About the author

Peter TrubowitzPeter Trubowitz – LSE US Centre
Peter Trubowitz is Professor of International Relations, and Director of the LSE’s US Centre. His main research interests are in the fields of international security and comparative foreign policy, with special focus on American grand strategy and foreign policy. He also writes and comments frequently on U.S. party politics and elections and how they shape and are shaped by America’s changing place in the world.