Image: Super Tuesday runup
Stephen Morton  /  AP
Chatham County poll manager James Wilson loads signs into to his vehicle Monday Feb. 4, 2008 a day before Super Tuesday in Savannah, Ga.
By Chief White House correspondent and political director
NBC News
updated 2/5/2008 10:41:20 AM ET 2008-02-05T15:41:20

There have been so many unpredictable twists and turns in this election cycle, and so many questions remain.

Yet one thing is for certain – Super Tuesday will be the single biggest presidential primary day in the country's history.

But will Feb. 5 provide any answers to those questions, most of which hinge on the evening's results?

Here's a look at some of those pressing questions, and the possible answers.

The de facto incumbent
Is Hillary Clinton perceived as the defacto incumbent in this race?

If she is, it's going to be a long night for her campaign since she's well under 50 percent in a number of states. Why does this matter? Because if she's perceived as the incumbent, look for undecideds to break decidedly to Obama.

Then again, a number of us thought undecideds would break for Kerry against Bush in '04, and that didn't happen.

Still, Barack Obama has the challenger feel about him, especially in contrast to Clinton. Plus the national poll trendline shows Clinton hasn't added support in a while, while Obama's doing nothing but.

Perception vs. Reality
What will have a greater impact on viewers Tuesday night? The dead even delegate fight between Clinton and Obama?

Or the potential for one Dem to win a plurality of states by 52-48 while still splitting the delegates evenly?

What if Obama wins California narrowly plus a bunch of other swing states but trails in the delegate count by, say, 50? Will the media treat Obama as the winner of Super Tuesday because of an upset California win?

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Or what if Clinton wins a majority of states, including California, Missouri and Arizona but the delegate count is basically even (another likely outcome)? Will Clinton be treated as the winner?

At this point, it seems like a no-brainer that the delegate split Tuesday night will be in the range of 870-810, or somewhere in between. The question is, who will come out on top? Of course, if the delegate split is greater than 100, the candidate on the winning side is going to feel like they won in a landslide. But neither Democratic campaign expects the delegate split to be greater than 100.

That's not counting the Super Delegates, however.

The exit of John Edwards was a big boost to Obama on the delegate front because it virtually guarantees a fairly even split in delegates. Edwards hurt Obama more in the big delegate prizes (California, New York and New Jersey) than he hurt Clinton in the South.

Breaking 50 percent
In how many states will John McCain break the 50 percent threshold and should that matter?

There are five primary states in particular which McCain could sweep (Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma and Tennessee) that he'd lose if he were facing a 2-way contest.

Slideshow: Super campaigning How valuable will Mike Huckabee be for McCain? He could be worth 100 delegates to McCain, or 10 percent of what McCain needs for the nomination. Huckabee may expect more than just a nice speaking slot at a McCain-run GOP convention.

Home cooking
All five major candidates left have their home states up for grabs: Clinton with New York, Obama with Illinois, Mitt Romney with Massachusetts, McCain with Arizona and Huckabee with Arkansas. Does anyone lose their home state?

McCain won Massachusetts in 2000. He's clearly making a play for the state and hoping a victory there will be the nail in Romney's 2008 political coffin.

What about Obama's percentage in New York vs. Clinton's percentage in Illinois? If the polls are to be believed, then it looks like Obama may do better in New York than Clinton does in Illinois, which on the delegate front is a big deal. Could Obama net a greater share of delegates out of Illinois than Clinton does out of New York?

Positioning for the general
What will McCain say in his victory speech?

Assuming he believes he's the presumptive nominee after Tuesday night (and he needs a victory in California to lay claim to that title), how will he begin to position himself for the general election?

Will he continue to try to make the case to conservatives that he'll look out for their best interests or will he start to make an appeal to the middle? It is tricky for McCain; it will depend on his delegate lead and how mortally wounded Romney appears to be.

And at what point does McCain pick his Democratic foe? Clearly, McCain's folks feel more comfortable keeping their conservative coalition together if the Democratic nominee is Clinton. Will McCain's camp attempt to influence the other primary and if so, how?

It's not over...
I've said it before, this is the most fascinating presidential race in a generation.

And much of what keeps it interesting is the fact that so many questions refuse to be answered.

Here's hoping a few questions still remain after Super Tuesday.

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