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Super Tuesday history: Clean sweeps and more triumphs from 1988-2016

A Super Tuesday sweep is a rare thing. Since the first true Super Tuesday in 1988, six candidates have accomplished the feat.

In 2020, all eyes are on the Democratic side, as more delegates are up for grabs on Super Tuesday than on any other date during the presidential primary season. As we await results this Tuesday night, take a trip back through the years to see who has triumphed on this day.

1988: George H.W. Bush wins big

In 1988, Vice President George H.W. Bush won
Credit: AP / Ed Kolenovsky

In 1988, Vice President George H.W. Bush won all 16 Republican primaries held on Super Tuesday, though Pat Robertson won the Washington state caucuses. Super Tuesday was invented by moderate Southern Democrats who wanted more influence in their party's presidential primary, and while Tennessee Sen. Al Gore got a boost from it in 1988, he and the Rev. Jesse Jackson split the South. Gore won six states and Jackson five, but Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis won eight (including Texas, Florida and his home state) as well as American Samoa. A fourth candidate, Rep. Richard Gephardt, won his home state of Missouri. Bush and Dukakis both went on to claim their party's nominations before Bush won in a landslide that November.

Above, Bush holds up a "Texas Victory" shirt as his wife Barbara watches during his celebration on March 8, 1988 in Houston.

1992: Bill Clinton triumphant

In 1992 Super Tuesday worked like a charm
Credit: AP / Ralf-Finn Hestoft

In 1992 Super Tuesday worked like a charm for moderate Southern Democrats, as Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton won eight of the 11 primaries or caucuses that day, with rival Paul Tsongas, a former senator from Massachusetts, taking just three. On the Republican side, President George H.W. Bush won all eight contests over challenger Patrick Buchanan. But that fall Clinton won the White House, defeating the incumbent in a three-way race that included independent Ross Perot.

Above, Democratic presidential hopeful Clinton speaks to well-wishers at a downtown Chicago hotel after his triumphant Super Tuesday on March 10, 1992.

1996: Bob Dole's the man of the hour

In 1996, there were two Super Tuesday sweeps,
Credit: AP / Doug Mills

In 1996, there were two Super Tuesday sweeps, although only one of those really mattered, as President Bill Clinton did not face serious opposition in the Democratic primaries. In the Republican race, Kansas Sen. Bob Dole won all seven states up for grabs on March 12, 1996, including Florida and Texas, defeating rivals such as Buchanan and businessman Steve Forbes. Dole's victories essentially clinched the Republican nomination. Clinton beat him that November.

Above Dole, joined by his daughter Robin, left, his wife Elizabeth and House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, right, attends a rally on Super Tuesday night in Washington.

2000: Al Gore and George W. Bush both win

Super Tuesday also proved decisive in the 2000
Credit: AP / Amy Sancetta

Super Tuesday also proved decisive in the 2000 campaign, as Vice President Al Gore won all 16 contests over Bill Bradley among the Democrats, while Texas Gov. George W. Bush won nine of 13 primaries or caucuses over Arizona Sen. John McCain for the GOP. Bradley and McCain both dropped out two days later, setting up a long general-election campaign ultimately won by Bush.

Above, Gore waves to supporters at a rally in Nashville, Tenn. on Super Tuesday, March 7, 2000.

2004: John Kerry's near-sweep

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry won nine out of
Credit: AP / Charles Krupa

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry won nine out of 10 Democratic contests on Super Tuesday in 2004, delivering a knockout blow to North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who withdrew from the race the next day. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean prevented a Kerry sweep by winning his state -- even though he'd already dropped out of the race. On the Republican side, President George W. Bush scored a sweep, although he faced no real competition. Bush won a second term in the White House over Kerry that fall.

Above, Kerry pumps his fist as he arrives onstage with his wife Teresa for a Super Tuesday primary night party in Washington on March 2, 2004.

2008: Biggest Super Tuesday produces mixed results

The biggest Super Tuesday ever -- with 25
Credit: AP / Rick Bowmer

The biggest Super Tuesday ever -- with 25 states or territories holding contests -- was held on Feb. 5, 2008. Illinois Sen. Barack Obama won 13 states, while his Democratic opponent, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, took nine and American Samoa. For the GOP, Arizona Sen. John McCain won nine states to seven for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and five for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee -- but McCain's victories in winner-take-all primaries gave him an insurmountable lead in delegates. Obama eventually beat Clinton for the Democratic nomination, and defeated McCain for the White House that November.

Above, Obama addresses the media Feb. 6, 2008, in Chicago, as he dug in for an extended battle for the Democratic nomination.

2012: Romney wins in his second go-round

On Super Tuesday in 2012, Romney won six
Credit: AP / Stephan Savoia

On Super Tuesday in 2012, Romney won six Republican contests -- including the key state of Ohio -- while former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum prevailed in three and Gingrich, the former House speaker, took only his home state of Georgia. The incumbent occupying the White House, Obama, swept Super Tuesday on the Democratic side without any serious competition. He defeated Romney to win re-election that fall.

Above, Romney smiles as he addresses supporters at his Super Tuesday campaign rally on March 6, 2012, in Boston. He easily won on his home turf of Massachusetts.

2016: Strong showings by Trump, Clinton

Super Tuesday four years ago helped propel Donald
Credit: AP / John Minchillo

Super Tuesday four years ago helped propel Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to their eventual nominations. Trump took seven of 11 states, while his struggling establishment rivals Sen. Ted Cruz won three -- his home state of Texas, next-door Oklahoma and Alaska -- and Florida's Sen. Marco Rubio claimed a victory in Minnesota. On the Democratic side, it was the establishment favorite, Clinton, who claimed seven states, plus American Samoa. Her challenger Sen. Bernie Sanders won four, defending his home turf with a win in Vermont, and victories in Colorado, Minnesota and Oklahoma. Trump won the presidency in a huge upset over Clinton in the general election in November 2016.

Above, candidate Trump speaks during a campaign stop on Super Tuesday on March 1, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio.

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