The History of Super Tuesday: Frankenstein Monster

Super Tuesday: The Frankenstein Monster

The idea of Super Tuesday has been around for years. The Southern States were frustrated by the fact that they were the most electoral rich region of the country but had little impact on the presidential nominees of their respective parties.

Yes, New York, California, Illinois, Ohio and a handful of other states were the biggest, but as a region, the South usually determined the outcome.

Still, nothing much happened until the political parties became involved.

Chuck Robb, the Democratic governor of Virginia, can be called the “father of Super Tuesday.” He envisioned a more moderate Democratic party and believed a Southern Primary would do the trick.

Republican leaders, meanwhile, saw a Super Tuesday as a way to ensure that the establishment choice would win.

They understood that a populist candidate could go to Iowa and shake enough hands and give enough speeches to win a caucus. But only a candidate with their money could win on Super Tuesday. Multiple states were simultaneously in play and a candidate needed huge amounts of money for television advertising.

One of the early Super Tuesdays was May 25, 1976. There were six primaries. Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan each took three.

The most consequential Super Tuesday was March 8, 1988, which launched the most enduring political dynasty in American history, the Bush family dynasty which produced two presidents and the governors of Texas and Florida.

George HW Bush was the sitting vice president. The first in the nation contest was held in Michigan. Bush lost the first round. Then there was Iowa where Bush came in third.

I was with his son, future president, George W. Bush, that night in Iowa and walked him alone to his hotel bedroom and stayed up with him. It was depressing.

Later I walked down to the bar, the only place open in the hotel, and sat with Doro Bush, who couldn’t sleep and tried to reassure her that it wasn’t over. There were rumors that her dad was going to quit politics and be the president of Purolator. So would have ended the Bush dynasty.

But Bush, Senior won in New Hampshire the next week and in South Carolina on March 5th and on Super Tuesday, March 8th. The Bush family dynasty was born.

So Super Tuesday can be history making.

The great irony is that both the Democrat and Republican leaders who advocated for a Super Tuesday saw their purposes backfire miserably.

Yes, in 1992, the Democrat moderates succeeded in electing Bill Clinton but eventually large numbers of African American came into the process and drove the Democratic Party off a leftist cliff.

In 1988, half of the Southern States voted for Jesse Jackson. Today, in 2016, many in the party openly embrace a publicly identified Socialist candidate.

Republican managers also failed to accomplish their goals. Their idea of controlling the nomination process is failing badly.

Today, Donald Trump, the ultimate “outsider candidate” is poised to win big on Super Tuesday and use the very weapon created by the GOP insider party establishment to crush their power.

Super Tuesday has become a Frankenstein monster that it creators in both political parties never anticipated.


Published by Doug Wead

Doug Wead is a New York Times bestselling author whose latest book, Game of Thorns, is about the Trump-Clinton 2016 election. He served as an adviser to two American presidents and was a special assistant to the president in the George H.W. Bush White House.

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