With the races for the Republican and Democratic presidential nominations more hotly contested than ever following the Jan. 8 New Hampshire primaries, New Jersey is increasingly seen as a coveted prize for White House hopefuls this election season.
On Tuesday, Feb. 5, 19 states, including New Jersey, will hold their primary elections or caucuses. Additionally, two will hold Republican-only elections and three will hold Democrat-only elections. This packed day of primary elections has occurred each primary season since the 1980s, earning the moniker "Super Tuesday."
But this year, even more states than usual are holding their primary elections on that Tuesday, spawning new names including "Super Duper Tuesday" and "Tsunami Tuesday." New Jersey - which is holding its primary on Feb. 5 for the first time, having voted last year to move its primary forward from June - is seen as one of the most sought-after states due to its large number of delegates.
College Democrats president Rob Weiss '09 noted that, though Super Duper Tuesday will not give any one candidate the delegate count necessary to win his or her party's nomination, it will be a deciding factor in both parties' races. "After the fifth, it will be pretty clear who will get the nominations," he said.
College Republicans president Andrew Malcolm '09 agreed that the primaries this Feb. 5 will be highly significant. "While a lot of the attention has been focused recently on Iowa and New Hampshire, only 12 delegates to the Republican National Convention were awarded in New Hampshire last week, while more than 1,000 delegates will be awarded on Feb. 5, " he said in an email.
In the past, Super Tuesdays have traditionally occurred in early March; in 2000 for example, 16 states held primaries or caucuses on March 7. But to increase the importance of their votes, some states, like New Jersey, began to hold their primaries earlier.
New Jersey's large number of delegates - when coupled with those from other populous states holding their primaries on Feb. 5, such as California, Illinois and New York - means that by mid-February, over 40 percent of delegates will have been selected, significantly more than the 2 percent that were selected by Feb. 5 in 2000.
Specifically, New Jersey boasts 52 delegates, giving it the potential to push presidential candidates over the edge and secure their parties' nominations. "It is most likely that Feb. 5 will be the most crucial day in the battle for the Republican nomination, with several Republicans having a shot at locking up the nomination on that day," Malcolm said.
But some candidates may face more of an uphill battle than others in getting the nod from the Garden State, with one candidate from each party - Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) for the Democrats and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani for the Republicans - currently seen as the strongest contenders for the state's nomination.
According to the research group pollster.com, Clinton dominates in the polls among New Jersey residents, with 50.6 percent compared to rival Sen. Barack Obama's (D-Ill.) 19.1 percent. Among the Republican candidates, Giuliani leads in New Jersey with 48.8 percent, compared to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who is favored by only 7.4 percent of Garden State residents.
For both leaders, New Jersey is seen as a crucial state in their quest for their party's nomination. Giuliani made little effort to campaign in either Iowa or New Hampshire and consequently saw poor showings in both states; he has publicly said his strategy is to bide his time and win the bigger states - such as New Jersey - later on.
Clinton, meanwhile, is locked in a tight contest with Obama, having lost to him and former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) in the Iowa caucuses but achieing a narrow surprise win in the New Hampshire primary. "New Jersey is a make-or-break state for Hillary," Weiss said. "She's been up by a lot in the polls [in New Jersey]. A lot of senators and representatives endorse her here."
Obama, however, has hardly written off the Garden State. This past Wednesday, he stopped at St. Peter's College in Jersey City, N.J., for a rally. The crowd there was reportedly so large that Obama first made a speech to the 2,000-member overflow crowd outside before giving a second speech inside the gymnasium.
Malcolm, meanwhile, said New Jersey could be important for Republicans in selecting a candidate with broad appeal, since the Garden State's Republican party comprises diverse constituencies. "For any Republican to beat Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama in November, he must appeal to a wide range of voters all over the country," Malcolm said. "New Jersey's primary could be crucial because of the diverse nature of the state's Republican primary voters."
Malcolm added that the College Republicans have been contacted by representatives of the major Republican candidates.
Weiss, meanwhile, said the significance of Super Duper Tuesday is difficult to overstate, even though a number of primaries come afterwards. "It's almost as if nothing else matters," he said.
© 2008 The Daily Princetonian via U-WIRE