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What is Super Tuesday and how does it work?

Super Tuesday could be former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley’s last chance to stop former US president Donald Trump’s drive to clinch the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

Fifteen states hold the party’s nominating contests, the biggest day of primaries, when more than a third of delegates will be assigned to July’s Republican National Convention in Milwaukee.

President Joe Biden is a shoo-in for the Democratic nomination when party loyalists vote for delegates to August’s Democratic National Convention in Chicago, with only two long-shot challengers remaining.

What is Super Tuesday and when is it?

Super Tuesday describes the day in the U.S. presidential primary cycle when the most states vote. It takes place on 5 March this year.

In the Republican contest, 865 of 2,429 delegates will be up for grabs, including from the two most populous states, California and Texas. At least 1,215 delegates are needed to win the nomination at the Republican National Convention in July.

A woman drops off her ballot at the Los Angeles County Registrar in Norwalk, California, ahead of the California Primary election on ‘Super Tuesday’

Contest-by-contest, the Republican delegate counts for the Super Tuesday votes are: Alabama (50), Alaska (29), Arkansas (40), California (169), Colorado (37), Maine (20), Massachusetts (40), Minnesota (39), North Carolina (74), Oklahoma (43),Tennessee (58), Texas (161), Utah (40), Vermont (17) and Virginia (48).

About a third of Democratic delegates will also be decided on 5 March, with nominating contests held in 14 of those 15 states, plus American Samoa. In Alaska, Democrats vote on 6 April.

5 March is also the final day for Democrats in Iowa to mail in their ballots in that state’s caucuses and when results will be announced.

How does it work?

With so many states and a territory voting across different time zones, it could take a while for the full results to be clear.

In California, vote-by-mail ballots are valid as long as they are postmarked on or prior to primary election day and received by 12 March.

In addition, some states hold “open primaries” that allow registered voters to choose whether to cast their ballots in the Democratic or Republican primary, adding a possible layer of unpredictability.

Who is leading in the polls?

Haley has no clear path to beating Trump. This could be her last chance to at least slow the former president’s path to the nomination.

Nikki Haley has vowed to stay in the race

Opinion polls show Trump to be an overwhelming favourite in California and Texas, as well as in states such as Alabama, Maine and Minnesota. His campaign projects that he will win at least 773 delegates on Super Tuesday and clinch the nomination a week or two later.

Trump has scored big wins in nearly all of the Republican nominating contests so far, including in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina, Michigan, Idaho and Missouri. However, Haley triumphed in Washington DC, delivering a small symbolic boost for her campaign.

Trump has repeatedly urged Haley to drop out to set up a rematch of the 2020 election against Biden that polls show many Americans do not want.

Haley, a former South Carolina governor who served as UN ambassador under Trump, has vowed to stay in the race. She crisscrossed the country with an aggressive travel schedule leading up to Super Tuesday, and her campaign has rolled out a leadership team in Georgia, where voters go to the polls on 12 March, a week after Super Tuesday.

Polls suggest Donald Trump will to be the favourite in California and Texas

She said after her defeat in South Carolina on 24 February that voters “have the right to a real choice, not a Soviet-style election with only one candidate.

“I have a duty to give them that choice.”

The Super Tuesday results in North Carolina will be closely watched for signs of each candidate’s strength in one of the potential battleground states that could decide the November general election. Trump won the state in 2020 by just over a single percentage point.

North Carolina will award 74 delegates on Super Tuesday. The state allows voters who are unaffiliated with a party to participate in any primary they choose, which could boost Haley’s performance given her relative strength with independent voters compared to Trump.

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