Super Tuesday gets super-sizedby Nikki Tundel, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Typically, it's known as Super Tuesday. Loosely defined, it's the day during a presidential election year when a whole bunch of states simultaneously hold primaries or caucuses.
For many people, though, the term "super" just wasn't super enough to describe Tuesday's events. Instead, we had Tsunami Tuesday and Monster Super Tuesday and, of course, Super-Duper Tuesday.
In many ways, the superlatives were warranted. This year, Super Tuesday saw more than 20 states hold caucuses or primaries. In 2000, just 10 states did.
In Minnesota, a record number of caucus-goers made themselves heard. More than 230,000 Democrats turned out. That's four times the number of DFLers who showed up four years ago. Republican attendance topped 70,000 people, also an historical high.
"We broke all the records," says Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. "We shattered all the records."
And to whom do we owe this renewed interest in the democratic process? Political analyst Todd Rapp, a Democrat, thinks he knows.
"Maybe we should just thank Dick Cheney," says Rapp. "The fact that there's not a current president or vice president on the ballot for the first time in a very long time has changed the dynamics of this race."
"It's brought more interesting candidates into it, and it's created a debate that is more about issues and the direction of the country, and less about that person's standing in the administration," Rapp says.
Republican analyst Tom Horner agrees with Rapp, and adds.
"People are sensing that on both sides of the aisle there is a lot at stake. This really is an election that has the potential to be transformational, regardless of who's elected."
While turnout might have been big, the news coming out of Super Tuesday is harder to characterize.
For example, there's still no frontrunner in the race for the Democratic nomination. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama remain neck and neck.
Obama won more states on Super Tuesday, but Clinton prevailed in the bigger states, states with more delegates. And it's the number of delegates that will determine who gets the party's nomination.
Still, both candidates reacted to the tallies as if they alone had been triumphant.
"Tonight, in record numbers, you voted not just to make history, but to remake America," proclaimed Clinton.
"Our time has come. Our movement is real. And change is coming to America," declared Obama.
There was a little more clarity on the Republican side. Super Tuesday solidified John McCain as the frontrunner for the Republican nomination. He won in key states like California, Illinois, and New York and added to his growing delegate total.
"I think we must get used to the idea that we are the Republican Party frontrunner for the nomination for President of the United States," said McCain to a roomful of supporters.
It's going to be nearly impossible for any of the other Republicans to surpass McCain in the final delegate count. But that doesn't mean the other candidates are giving up quite yet.
In fact, Mike Huckabee declared his campaign very much alive.
"As long there are still votes and delegates to be won," said Huckabee, "there's going to be one guy answering the bell every time there's a new round."
Challenger Mitt Romney was equally optimistic in his Tuesday night remarks.
"We're gonna keep on battling," said Romney to his supporters. "We're gonna go all the way to the convention. We're gonna win this thing. And we're gonna get in the White House."
But just two days later, Romney dropped out of the race.
Of course, regardless of which candidates end up with their party's bids, one thing is certain. The campaigns will now have more people to call on for help.
Here's how Mark Ritchie puts it.
"With this many people attending caucuses, all the political parties have gotten the names and contact information of people who are very motivated," explained Ritchie. "Those people will turn into door knockers, phoners, possibly contributors. That huge turnout last night at Super Tuesday will provide bodies and energy and fuel to political parties which will translate into excellent organization."
Ritchie predicts we'll see a record number of voters head to the polls in November as well.