This post has been updated.
We talk about Super Tuesday as though it is a solid thing, a day on the electoral calendar in which there is one result.
The truth on the Republican side is that it is deeply messy, a combination of a dozen races with a dozen set of rules with another dozen set of exceptions. In nearly every state, the proportional distribution of delegates to candidates is proportional in the sense that "more" is bigger than "less." Whether a candidate gets any delegates at all requires hitting different marks in different states: 20 percent in some, zero percent in others. Each state sets its own rules under loose guidelines from the Republican National Committee.
To make this obvious, we created a tool that applies the delegate distribution plans (as articulated at Frontloading HQ and the Green Papers) to generic election results. The complexity of the math on this is no joke, which I can assure you as the person who endeavored to figure out all of the possible contingencies. So to make it a bit easier, we decided to apply some blanket assumptions to the numbers.
- The same percentages hold for each candidate in each state.
- They also hold for independent congressional districts.
- There is no home-field advantage.
- Since rounding rules vary — what happens if too many or too few delegates are assigned — we're just skipping them. This is a handful of delegates, anyway.
- In the event of a tie, the win goes to the person who is currently polling better nationally.
The numbers in red are the total delegates earned by each candidate on Super Tuesday if the rules above apply. Change them around and see what happens. (You can use the sliders or type in numbers directly.) Below, the change in each state's allocation with each change in the percentages is explained. Tiny shifts, tripping over invisible thresholds, can make a big difference.
This is what Super Tuesday really looks like.