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Lest you think Super Tuesday has been part of American Political culture since the days of Washington and Jefferson – I hate to break it to you, but its a relatively recent phenomenon – one that has drawn criticism and fire ever since the ’84 elections led incumbent President Ronald Reagan to successfully (and handily) keep his day job doing the Peoples business for another four years.
On March 13, 1984, the first official Super Tuesday was held with nine states, American Samoa and Democrats abroad participating. The nine states that participated were Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Washington. Gary Hart won six states (Florida, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Washington) and Walter Mondale won three states (Alabama, Georgia and Hawaii) and American Samoa. On Super Tuesday in 1984, 512 delegates, 13 percent of the total number of delegates, were chosen.
The 1984 campaign was seen as starting the modern movement toward a more sweeping Super Tuesday in March using a concept known as “frontloading” the primaries. Nine states were in play on March 13, 1984, as Walter Mondale took Georgia and survived the loss of seven states to Gary Hart to remain in the presidential campaign and get the nomination at the Democratic national convention.
Four years later, the event was being called the Southern Super Tuesday as 21 states, mostly from the South, had elections on March 8, 1988. For the Democrats, Michael Dukakis managed to win five states despite his liberal, New England heritage. The Dukakis showing blunted any effort for a regional candidate to leverage his connections. Bill Clinton then became the first Southern candidate to take advantage of a grouping of Southern primaries in 1992, sweeping the South on Super Tuesday and completing a comeback that had started in New Hampshire.
For a glimpse of what they were saying at the time, here are two reports; one from Charles Osgood on Super Tuesday itself (March 13th) and a news report on the morning after.
So – no, it hasn’t been part of our Political makeup for a very long time, only the last 36 years. Just enough time for people to start asking why we have it in the first place.