This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.
From time to time we are answering questions about the American election process. Today, from Jigawa, Nigeria, Mustapha Aminu Gumel asks why Super Tuesday is so special in the presidential campaign.
Super Tuesday is a day when a large number of states hold primary elections or caucus meetings. Primaries and caucuses are part of the nominating process.
In the two thousand four campaign, ten states held their events on Tuesday, March second. Next year Super Tuesday will come almost a month earlier -- on February fifth. And it has earned the name "Super Duper Tuesday" or "Tsunami Tuesday."
This time more than twenty states will hold primaries or caucuses. These include big states with a lot of delegates like California, Illinois and New York.
During the nominating season, people vote for a candidate. But what they are really doing is choosing delegates to the national political conventions later in the year. These are where the Democrats and Republicans nominate their candidates for the general election in November.
The two thousand eight presidential campaign began much earlier than Americans are used to. The national conventions are not until late summer. But the likely nominees should become clear by February fifth -- Super Tuesday -- if not sooner.
Traditionally, Iowa holds the first caucuses in the nation and New Hampshire holds the first primary. The results of the voting get a lot of attention. The idea behind these early tests is to give candidates with less money a chance to compete against those with bigger campaigns. Critics, however, say this tradition gives these small states an unfair amount of influence in the presidential campaign.
The Iowa caucuses will take place on January third. And New Hampshire will hold its primary on January eighth. The date was set after the Michigan Supreme Court this week cleared the way for Michigan to hold its primary on January fifteenth. New Hampshire is required by state law to hold its primary at least a week before any similar election.
Florida, South Carolina and Nevada, along with Republicans in Wyoming, will also hold their primaries or caucuses in January.
Opinion is divided about the idea of so many states holding their votes so early in the election year. Supporters say earlier primaries could give voters a greater choice of candidates. Yet states that moved their voting ahead to February fifth, hoping to get more attention from candidates, may still find their influence limited.
Some experts say the nominating season is so heavy at the start, so front-loaded, that doing well in Iowa and New Hampshire will be more important than ever.
And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. You can learn more about American politics at www.51VOA.com. To send us a question, click on Contact Us and please include your name and where you are. I'm Steve Ember.