On Super Tuesday today 13 states will have primaries or caucuses and a big chunk of delegates for both the Republican and Democratic parties will be decided.
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For the remaining candidates, Tuesday's results could establish a clear front-runner on both sides or muddy the field even more heading into big winner-take-all states in the coming weeks such as Ohio and Florida. Today, nearly 600 Republican delegates will be chosen, roughly a quarter of the total. A candidate needs to reach 1,237 delegates to clinch the nomination. On the Democratic side, 1,004 delegates are available.
Here's what to watch for tonight:
The last stand for Ted Cruz
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is the first candidate this cycle that will have to defend his home state. Most polls show Cruz winning Texas over Donald Trump. In a new CBS poll, Cruz is at 42 percent and Trump is at 31. Some polls have the race tighter. An Emerson poll released on Feb. 23 has Cruz at 29 and Trump at 28. Cruz has long planned for big wins on Tuesday with so many southern states in the running including Georgia, Arkansas Tennessee, Alabama, etc. The polls show Trump winning most of those states. Texas is a must-win for Cruz. If Cruz can hold Texas and win a few of the southern states he will likely keep going.
Texas is also a big state for Democrats
Texas is the second largest state in the nation and has a lot of delegates. Clinton defeated Barack Obama in Texas in 2008 and a big win there Tuesday could give her a big delegate bump against Bernie Sanders. The latest poll show a tightening race there for Democrats. The new poll out from the University of Texas/Texas Tribune has Clinton up 54 to 44. Sanders is hitting areas like Austin hard and hoping for big turn out from college campuses. Sanders is winning 18-29 year olds with 62 percent of the vote in that group. His campaign just has to make sure they show up on Election Day. Some of what we saw in South Carolina and Nevada is showing up in Texas. The poll shows Clinton winning 70 percent of the black vote and 60 percent of the Hispanic vote.
The race for delegates
Getting the nomination for both parties is all about math. On Super Tuesday, all of the states give delegates out proportionally meaning they are distributed by congressional district or based on the percentage of votes they receive. Some states have different rules for a candidate to get delegates. For example, a candidate may have to get at least 15 percent of the vote statewide to be eligible. These rules could create a mixed bag of results on both sides. For example, Trump may win most of the states, but Rubio, Cruz and Kasich could split up delegates. Same thing is true on the Democratic side. Even if Clinton wins most of the southern states, Bernie Sanders will still get delegates. That can also hold true for Clinton in Massachusetts where Sanders is expected to win.
Can Sanders keep Clinton from running the table?
The Sanders' campaign knows that Clinton will be strongest in the southern states on Tuesday, so it is focusing on Colorado, Massachusetts and maybe Oklahoma. Clinton won Massachusetts big in 2008 against Barack Obama, 56-41. Sanders is expected to win his home state of Vermont and Minnesota with no problem. If those end up being the only two states Sanders wins, that will not be a good night for him. Picking up Colorado would be a win for Sanders. It would show he can win out west and in a swing state and he can fight on. If Clinton wins everything Tuesday except for Vermont and Massachusetts, it will give her a huge lead over Sanders and it would be hard for him to compete against her going forward.
Can Rubio finally win something?
The party establishment and news outlets keep talking about Marco Rubio as the Trump alternative, but there is one problem ... he hasn't won a single state yet. Rubio has had a few second place finishes, but at some point soon needs something in the win column. Unfortunately, none of the Super Tuesday polls have Rubio in first. It could be a night of second and third place finishes for Rubio. In Massachusetts, the latest poll has Trump up over Rubio, 47-15. In Tennesee, Trump is up over Rubio, 40-19 and the trend continues. The best state for Rubio might be Minnesota. He also could stand a chance in Georgia, he's still losing in the polls there to Trump, but it's a tighter race. The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll there show Trump at 30 and Rubio and Cruz both at 23. Hard to imagine you can be considered a strong challenger if we get through Super Tuesday and you're 0 for 16.
Can Kasich catch a break?
Super Tuesday is not shaping up to be a good night for Ohio Gov. John Kasich. He's last in the polls in Alabama, Texas, Tennessee, and Oklahoma behind Ben Carson. He is fourth in the latest Massachusetts, Vermont and Virginia polls, beating only Carson. He is tied for last with Carson in Georgia. A third place or higher finish anywhere would be good for Kasich if he hopes to have any momentum heading toward the Michigan primary next week.
When does the fun start?
Here's a rundown of when the polls close on Super Tuesday (eastern time)
Alabama: 8 p.m.
Arkansas: 8:30 p.m.
Colorado: Caucusing starts at 9 p.m.
Georgia: 7 p.m.
Massachusetts: 8 p.m.
Minnesota: Caucus starts at 8 p.m.
Oklahoma: 8 p.m.
Tennessee: 8 p.m.
Texas: 9 p.m.
Vermont: 7 p.m.
Virginia: 7 p.m.