Super Tuesday is the biggest day of the US election calendar so far. Among the 24 places voting are key states including California, New York and New Jersey. These states will account for a large number of the delegates who will choose the democratic and republican candidates for November's presidential election.
American Presidential and Congressional elections differ from European Parliament elections in that they are bi-partisan (usually only Republicans or Democrats run) and because of the vast amounts of money involved.
People rather than parties
We asked a few MEPs if they favoured adopting the US system for Europe:
British Conservative Jonathan Evans, chair of Parliament's US Delegation said, the "positives are the strong impact of the personality and the reputation of candidates rather than the power of the political parties themselves".
"This encourages US politicians to actively engage with their constituents much more effectively than the vast majority of members of the European Parliament do," he said. "On the negative side, wealthy candidates have a massive and unfair advantage."
Support for US-style primary system
One of the best aspects of the US system is the contact that US presidential candidates have with people, according to Italian Green Monica Frassoni. "Candidates are continuously looking for contact with people and they are exposing themselves to very difficult direct debates on TV."
Ms Frassoni sees the primary system as a good method of choosing candidates at an early stage: "the primaries system could be usefully introduced here and it would be wonderful to see the European parties organise primaries to choose their candidate for President of the Commission".
The downsides of the US system for her are the amount of money involved and the fickleness of the media: "it is very obvious that big money counts and a very moody press can be problematic; I would not like to see those elements so prominent in our campaigns here."
Home-grown democracy "always healthiest"
Spanish Socialist Enrique Barón Crespo, himself a former EP president elected by fellow MEPs, said "the big challenge for the EU is to be organised as a vibrant and attractive democracy, therefore the American example is full of lessons".
"The primaries stand for functioning participative and competitive democracy based on the involvement of the citizens...as for the elections themselves they are an obstacle and endurance race not controlled by the parties," he said.
Mr Crespo also raised concerns about the amount of money involved. "The excessive weight of the money in the campaigns means a mortgage for later governing."
"European democracy is home-grown, just as US democracy is grown in the US. And home-grown is always healthiest," according to British Liberal Graham Watson, leader of the EP's ALDE group.
"We worry about low voter turnout, but voter turnout across the Atlantic is often even lower," he noted.
He warned against adopting aspects of US politics, which he characterised as negative: "if we allow our political strategists to carry on copying US partners - reading the opinions poll, conducting focus groups and then repeating back to the voters the prejudices they already hold, in the belief it will get us elected - public faith in politicians will fall even lower".
Due to time differences Super Tuesday in the US will run through the European night. The results should come in early Wednesday.
Let's hope the enthusiasm generated in the United States is matched in the European elections of June 2009!
Further information :
EP Delegation for US
Differences between MEPs and US Congressmen
US elections 2008