The Next Few Weeks Could Determine the Election: Here Are the Key Events
Policy + Politics

The Next Few Weeks Could Determine the Election: Here Are the Key Events

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The first votes of the 2016 presidential election will finally be cast next week.

On Feb. 1, voters in Iowa will turn out for the state’s much-anticipated caucuses, kicking off a new phase of the campaign that began when Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) announced his then-dark horse candidacy last March.

Related: As Sanders Surges, Dems Finally Realize They Have a Race on Their Hands

The race, which has felt like a marathon at times, is about to turn into sprint for the nomination.

Here are the key dates over the next few weeks and what’s at stake:

January 25. Democratic town hall in Des Moines, Iowa. The event was added to the calendar last week in a tacit acknowledgment of the close race between Hilary Clinton, the once unbeatable frontrunner, and the insurgent Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Related: How Trump Could ‘Run the Table’ if He Beats Cruz in Iowa

January 28. Republican debate in Des Moines, Iowa. The debate offers the crowded GOP field its last prime-time shot to take on frontrunner Donald Trump before the caucuses. A Trump victory could put the former reality TV star on a glide path to the nomination.

February 1. Iowa caucuses. Will Cruz hand Trump a stinging defeat? Will Sanders upset Clinton the way then-Senator Barack Obama did in 2008?

February 6. Republican debate in Manchester, N.H. The race pivots to the nation’s first primary. The debate could see a slimmed down field as long-shot candidates, like former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, start leaving the race.

February 9. New Hampshire primary. Sanders is expected to win on the Democratic side, in part because of Vermont’s proximity to the Granite State. Trump has handily led the GOP, and the real race is to see which establishment candidate comes in second: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) or former Florida governor Jeb Bush.

Related: Trump Looks to Gain from Carson Campaign Meltdown

February 11. Democratic debate in Milwaukee. Barring some kind of miracle win in Iowa or New Hampshire, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley will likely have dropped out of the race at this point, making the debate a two-person show featuring Clinton and Sanders.

February 13. Republican debate in Greenville, S.C. Borrowing a page from the Democratic playbook, the GOP will hold its second Saturday night debate of the cycle, possibly with an even smaller group of contenders.

February 20. Nevada Democratic caucuses and South Carolina Republican primary. Should Clinton lose Iowa and New Hampshire, Nevada will be the first test of her organization’s ability to mount a comeback. For Republicans, the Palmetto State has a reputation for throwing the campaign narrative out the window, as it did in 2012 when former House Speaker Newt Gingrich beat presumptive nominee Mitt Romney.

February 23. Nevada Republican caucuses. Given the state’s large Hispanic population, voter turnout should prove interesting, considering Trump’s strident anti-immigrant rhetoric, including his idea to forcibly deport the roughly 11 million people in the U.S. illegally.

February 26. Republican debate in Houston. By this time, voters should be able to count the number of Republican hopefuls on one hand. Besides getting trounced at the polls, some contenders will no doubt have looked at their coffers and realized they just don’t have the money to compete in the looming Super Tuesday contest.

February 27. South Carolina Democratic primary. This is Clinton’s “firewall” against Sanders. In visits to the state, she has repeatedly played up her deep ties to the African-American community and her relationship with Rep. James Clyburn, South Carolina’s top Democrat. A loss or a closer-than-expected showing by Sanders could spell big trouble for Clinton and signal that the Democratic primary could stretch well into the spring.

March 1. Super Tuesday. A wave of states are set to hold their caucuses and primaries, including those that make up the recently dubbed “SEC primary,” a slate of Southern states that Republicans believe will ultimately determine who will be their nominee in November.

Cruz is believed to have positioned himself the best for this major day of voting, while Clinton has boasted of having paid staffers in many of the states, though her campaign hasn’t given exact numbers to the media. Sanders has come in a close second to Clinton the past couple of fundraising quarters and has only recently begun to deploy staff across the country.

Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia will all hold their primaries and Minnesota will hold its state caucuses.

Republicans in Alaska and Wyoming will hold their caucuses, while Democrats will caucus in American Samoa and Colorado.