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The Star-Spangled Super Tuesday Grab Bag

Scouring the nation in search of stories beyond the top ticket.

More than a dozen states will announce their presidential picks this Super Tuesday in the single largest daylong delegate dump of this election cycle. Everyone will be watching to see if Marco Rubio is capable of winning a state, and if Bernie Sanders has any hope of keeping the political revolution train chugging. With so many states voting, however, there are plenty of other story lines, strange details, and amusing things to watch that will have no bearing whatsoever on the future of the country. For a moment, you can pretend that this isn’t a day in which Donald Trump looks set to prove his theory of winning, and is instead just the patriotic equivalent of listening to Whitney Houston’s rendition of the national anthem on repeat for 24 hours.

America!

Alaska

Voting can be a bit complicated when you live on an island thousands of miles away from the contiguous United States. Nearly 5,000 people live in the city of Unalaska, Alaska, although the population can swell to twice that size with workers trying to catch king crab and Pacific cod at Dutch Harbor. Until last Friday, the people who live there were a six-hour flight from the nearest polling place, according to local radio station KUCB.

Even Alaska’s process for picking Republican presidential candidates is singular; instead of doing a state-run primary or caucus, the party holds a Presidential Preference Poll. And to have a voice in the matter, one needs to be able to cast a vote, which is why Unalaska resident Jacob Whitaker kept calling the Alaska Republican Party last month, trying to find out if it was possible to get one in town. For him, it wasn’t just a matter of doing his democratic duty. His aims are much loftier: namely, trying to save the country. Whitaker, a network administrator for the city, family man, and longtime Unalaska resident, is deeply concerned about Donald Trump. "He’s not a good thing for the nation," Whitaker says, adding that making sure he has an opportunity to vote in 2016 is his "little part in fighting the Trump show."

Ever since being approved to run a polling place at the Burma Road Chapel — a building that hosts the Unalaska Visitors’ Center, the local radio station, and various classes and wedding receptions — Whitaker has been studying the handbook, posting signs around town announcing that Republicans will have a chance to vote, and trying to convince everyone else in town to line up behind his favorite candidate. "Watching Ted Cruz, I’m blown away by his level of character, and allegiance to principles," he says. "I agree with Rush Limbaugh about how he’s the closest we’ve had to Ronald Reagan in 30 years."

Whitaker isn’t sure how many people will show up on Tuesday. There are about half a dozen bulletin boards around town, and his Cruz posters are the only sign of the campaign he’s seen, giving the impression that Unalaska is a Texas stronghold in the north — even if it’s just a bunker with one guy inside holding down the fort.

Jacob Whitaker

Alabama

On Sunday, Senator Jeff Sessions donned a "Make America Great Again" hat and endorsed Donald Trump. It wasn’t terribly surprising; Roll Call published a list back in August of the five members of Congress most likely to swing this way. Sessions, who once joked that he didn’t have a problem with the KKK until he realized they were potheads, topped the list. Trump implored attendees to vote after getting Sessions’s approval. "I want a resounding vote," he said. "You've gotta knock the hell out of everybody."

Taylor Hill/WireImage

Minnesota

There will only be nine polling locations set up for those eager to caucus with the Independence Party or Green Party on Tuesday in Minnesota. The Legal Marijuana Now Party, an outgrowth of the older Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party, isn’t even holding caucuses but is encouraging members to vote anyway, while the party waits to see if it will be able to field its own presidential candidate come May, when the two-week nomination-by-petition window opens. Further down the ballot is where the party’s true ambitions lie, however, according to Treasurer Dan Vacek. Legal Marijuana Now wants to get a candidate in the state legislature — so far, its biggest success has been landing a candidate on the ballot. Zach Phelps ran for an open State Senate seat in a special election last month, on a pro-legalization platform. He got 4 percent of the vote.

Although the party is eager to find a presidential candidate to support who explicitly supports their goals, Vacek adds that he’s a big fan of Bernie Sanders. "Knock on wood, cross my fingers, I hope he’s still running this summer," he says. "We would probably still have a candidate if he’s the Democratic nominee, but it wouldn’t be quite the same."

Arkansas

This weekend, Donald Trump held a rally at the Bentonville Regional Airport in Arkansas. As in South Carolina, Marco Rubio has won the support of most Republican politicians in the state, although that didn’t stop crowds from descending on Trump’s event en masse.

Three miles away from the airport, you can find Trump Tours, a business that organizes agricultural tours abroad, and notes on its website, "Trump Tours has no association to the Donald Trump Organization." A woman named Kaitlin, who picked up the phone at Trump Tours, says that the company occasionally gets calls from people wondering how they can meet Donald Trump, and that a few more questions than usual have come recently since he’s been in town. The company is so small that it isn’t much invested in the election, she adds, and when anyone asks about the politician, "we try to stray away from it as quickly as possible."

American Samoa

With so many big prizes up for grabs, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will probably not be too worried about what happens in American Samoa, a small island in the middle of the Pacific about the size of Washington, D.C., that happens to be part of America and is also voting on Tuesday. Regardless of the lack of attention, voters will doubtless turn out — since the U.S. nationals there don’t get a voice during the general election, this is their only chance. Back in 2008, the Associated Press reported that "a record 285 caucus-goers voted in a hotel in Pago Pago," mostly for Hillary Clinton. (She called afterward to say thanks.)

Clinton has already won the support of the island’s superdelegates, but Sanders supporters, convinced that the race could come down to American Samoa, haven’t given up on the revolution. "Our work now could mean the difference between winning or losing on Super Tuesday for Bernie," one campaign staffer told volunteers, according to Samoa News. "We need to ride the momentum that our people-powered campaign has been building for months and bring a win in American Samoa."

Ten delegates are up for grabs in American Samoa.

J Pat Carter/Getty Images

Oklahoma and Colorado

Oklahoma is the eighth-most conservative state in the country, according to a Gallup study from last year. It is also a state that Bernie Sanders could win, if recent polling is to be believed. This also happens to be the first primary in which independents will be allowed to vote in the Democratic contest. In 2008, Hillary Clinton won Oklahoma by more than 20 points.

Sanders could also benefit from independents in Colorado — although they’d have to temporarily change their stripes. There are no open caucuses in Colorado, which means you have to sign up with one party or the other if you want to take part in the primary process. But, as Colorado Public Radio points out, unaffiliated voters are on the rise — outnumbering Republicans and Democrats in the state. The radio station adds that the Democratic Party has acquired more than 30,000 new members since September.

Aaron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Texas

If you thought the Republican presidential primary was confusing, take a look at the race for Texas Railroad Commissioner. First of all, the job has nothing to do with railroads; the three people on the commission instead deal with the oil and gas industry, which may explain why so many people are trying to get on it this year. As one candidate said at a forum last month, "If you're in the State of Texas, you're in the oil and gas business whether you know it or not."

The Dallas Morning News reports that there are seven Republican candidates competing for one empty seat. Two of the people running are named Mr. Christian; one of those candidates has previously run for railroad commissioner as "the only Christian on the ballot." There are also three Democratic candidates, a Green Party contender, and a Libertarian. Although few people outside of Texas have heard of this crowded race, it’s clear that the contours of the GOP presidential race have trickled down pretty far. Many of the ads run by Republican railroad commissioner hopefuls mention Obama, all feature the candidates trying to out-conservative their opponents, and one features a promise not to protect the lizards and rabbits that endanger the oil industry.

Vermont

If your name isn’t Bernie, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re not going to get many votes in Vermont on Tuesday. One Clinton supporter told Seven Days that she was still deciding whether it would be a good idea to even display a bumper sticker. But what about the other race? Is anyone excited about the contest without a Vermonter in it? "If you’re looking for visible signs of excitement in the Republican primary here," says Peter Hirschfeld, a reporter at Vermont Public Radio, "you’re going to have to look long and hard." He’s seen a few Trump signs here and there, and even noticed a sad, out-of-the-loop Carly Fiorina sign yesterday morning. The lackluster nature of the Republican primary in this state would have been surprising a few election cycles ago — between 1856 and 1988, Vermont only picked a Democratic presidential candidate once, and was one of two states to not back Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1936.

A VPR poll released last week showed that, like nearly everywhere else, Trump is in the GOP lead here. He visited the state once in January, holding an overbooked rally during which he yelled at security to confiscate the coats of a few Bernie-supporting protesters. Hirschfeld says he’s even spoken to a few voters trying to decide between Vermont’s favorite socialist son and the mouthy businessman, citing their shared distaste for special interests and superdonors. It’s unclear if a recent robocall allegedly sent out by a white nationalist super PAC will change any minds; the call told voters, "Donald Trump is not a racist, but Donald Trump is not afraid. Don’t vote for a Cuban." William Daniel Johnson, chair of the American Freedom Party, told the Burlington Free Press, "I thought Vermont probably would not be receptive to the message, so I thought I would try that just to get a feeling."

Virginia

Donald Trump currently has a double-digit lead in Virginia. Here are several tastefully curated photos of some supporters at his appearances in the state last month:

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

Tennessee

If there are any George Pataki supporters left in Tennessee, they’re in luck. Many candidates that have already dropped out of the race are still options on the state’s primary ballot. And even if there aren’t any voters intending to throw in for Pataki, they might still accidentally vote for him if they get confused by the ballot, which, according to The Tennessean, is 10 pages long. Besides picking presidential candidates, Republican voters will also be able to choose from 428 delegate candidates.

Massachusetts

Ohio governor John Kasich has conceded that he probably won’t win any states on Tuesday, although he has been hanging around New England for a few weeks to try to recapture some of that second-place New Hampshire magic. It is not clear whether he realizes that getting second place in one or two states won’t be enough to make him president.

Kasich currently gets about 15 percent of the vote in Massachusetts polls. Even his supporters seem less than optimistic about his chances, having told reporters things like "I think he could win it, yeah … It'll take a little movement” and remarking to Kasich himself, "I worry that you’re just so nice." Some Kasich supporters have ulterior motives; one told The Wall Street Journal, "I’m going to vote for him in the primary to try to screw Trump, because he’s an idiot."

Georgia

Nearly 200 delegates will be up for grabs in Georgia on Tuesday, not that you’d notice that in the "Chattooga Soundoff." Every week, Chattooga County residents call up the Summerville News to file their complaints concerning neighbors, elected officials, noisy birds, and bad drivers. There’s a healthy dose of blind-item gossip, declarations of love, and recurring characters like Bama One, who, as you’d expect, ends each of his calls by saying, "Roll damn tide." Each week, the News provides a printed stream-of-consciousness snapshot of what residents are thinking about, or raging about, at that moment. It is basically what would happen if the Internet started printing comment sections on paper.

News writer Jason Espy, whose family owns the paper, says that he hasn’t seen much talk about the presidential race in the Soundoff. "I don’t know the reason why," he says. "Maybe because everyone is in despair about the state of national politics." Espy himself has been discouraged by the obsessions of Soundoff; he told "This American Life" back in 2010 that the format provided a "great opportunity for people to address social issues and correct all these injustices, yet most of the time we use it to talk about Krystal hamburgers."

This month, a few bits of analysis have crept in here and there. "We need another Roosevelt-type government. Think carefully, but vote," one resident stressed. Another asked, "Don't you just hate it when a Democrat runs as a Republican for president like ol' Trump is doing?" Other comments on politics in recent weeks include, "Question: Do you know how to tell when a politician is lying? Answer: His lips are moving!" and "The City of Summerville administration is so much like Washington it's not even funny. I can sum it up in three words: arrogance, cover-up, and ignorance." One caller was "proud to have voted for Obama," another said that anyone who voted for Obama should be ashamed. One person wanted "all elected officials nationwide ... to submit to a drug test every 30 days."

At least two people expressed excitement and dread about the arrival of chocolate-dipped fried chicken in the region.


VMAs 2017