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June 18, 2024
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Five Super Tuesday takeaways on a big night for Biden and Trump

Primaries and caucuses in 16 states and American Samoa have brought further clarity to a presidential race that has been on a glide path to a rematch of the 2020 election. 

But the Super Tuesday contests also have offered the first clues about down-ballot races that will help determine control of statehouses and Congress this November.

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump remain on track to face off again in the fall. Biden continued to outperform marginal opposition for the Democratic nomination. And former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley continued to struggle to win over Republican voters — even in states that on paper seemed more favorable to her — and by Wednesday morning was making plans to end her campaign.

Here’s what we have learned so far:

Biden faces fewer speed bumps, but … 

On a night with few surprises, this one stood out: Biden lost his first contest of 2024 — the American Samoa caucus — to a political unknown, entrepreneur Jason Palmer.

That might be an unwelcome headline over the next 24 hours or so. But given that the result reflects fewer than 100 votes cast, it will most likely be a mere footnote in history. And while last week’s “uncommitted” protest vote in Michigan was a headache for Biden, the effort garnered only two delegates. Super Tuesday was a reminder that, despite the grim general election polls for Biden, a credible threat to his renomination has yet to emerge.

It was another night of easy wins for Biden. In his fourth White House campaign, he finally scored a victory in Iowa. He also cruised in Minnesota, where the Democrat trying the hardest to beat him, Rep. Dean Phillips, holds a congressional seat. Phillips — who finished fourth in Michigan behind “uncommitted” and Marianne Williamson, who at the time wasn’t an active candidate — was on track to finish third in his home state — behind “uncommitted” again.

“Congratulations to Joe Biden, Uncommitted, Marianne Williamson, and Nikki Haley for demonstrating more appeal to Democratic Party loyalists than me,” Phillips joked on X.

Haley barely makes a dent

Haley’s Vermont win, her second after Saturday’s primary in Washington, D.C., didn’t radically change the GOP calculus. If anything, it reflected the unique bond she shared with supporters of popular Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican known for his moderate politics and antipathy toward Trump — and the first Haley endorser to help lead her to victory. 

But Haley remained far behind Trump elsewhere in the delegate count. She also lost to Trump by large margins in two other states, Massachusetts and Virginia, that once appeared to offer small glimmers of hope. In both states, she appeared likely to finish with less than 40% of the vote, a threshold she had cited as meaningful after she reached it in New Hampshire and South Carolina and questioned Trump’s strength against Biden this fall.

Even so, others are now echoing Haley’s warning about Trump’s electoral vulnerabilities. Appearing Tuesday night on Fox News, Karl Rove, the GOP strategist behind former President George W. Bush’s campaigns, held a dry-erase board highlighting Haley’s vote share in several states and remarked that Trump “ought to be concerned about unifying the Republican Party.”

Haley is expected to announce Wednesday morning that she is dropping out of the race. In her remarks, she will encourage Trump to earn the support of Republicans and independent voters who backed her, a source told NBC News.

Meddling pays off in California

Rep. Adam Schiff saw an opportunity in the race for the late Dianne Feinstein’s Senate seat and took it.

California’s unique primary sends the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, to the general election. So Schiff, the Democratic front-runner and a prolific fundraiser, spent money on ads meant to boost Republican Steve Garvey, a former Major League Baseball star for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres, over two other Democrats.

The result: Schiff and Garvey advanced to November. Rep. Katie Porter — the other top-polling Democrat in the race — and Rep. Barbara Lee were shut out.

MAGA makes a move in North Carolina

North Carolina will host arguably the premier governor’s race of 2024 — it’s one of two presidential swing states, along with New Hampshire, that will pick new governors this fall.

Trump-endorsed Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, who easily won the GOP primary for governor Tuesday, enters the general election as one of the most polarizing candidates in the country. Democrats, who nominated Attorney General Josh Stein for governor, are eager to paint Robinson as an extremist on reproductive rights, education and LGBTQ issues. 

Democrats also plan to focus on his history of making provocative statements. Robinson has described the LGBTQ community as “filth,” slammed public school teachers as “wicked people” and cast doubt on whether the Holocaust occurred, calling its existence “hogwash.” 

The early vibes there recall the midterm elections in 2022, when Democrats successfully rallied against Trump-backed, MAGA-style candidates for governor in Arizona and Pennsylvania. Biden and Trump weren’t on the ballot that year. But Roy Cooper’s two terms as governor proved that Democrats can win the job even when a Republican wins the state’s electoral votes.

Allred tackles the opposition in Texas

Rep. Colin Allred, a former NFL linebacker, is one of the Democrats’ prized recruits of the cycle — and their latest top-shelf prospect to unseat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.

But first Allred had to win a primary. And there were questions about whether state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, who cast himself as the true progressive, would earn enough votes to trigger a runoff. 

Allred won a decisive majority and now can skip another round with Gutierrez and focus on the more daunting task of defeating Cruz in the general election. Texas remains a very red state, but Cruz is a reviled figure on the left, and as Beto O’Rourke showed in 2018, a likable Democrat can raise bundles of money from progressive donors and make it a close race.

“Ted Cruz has had 12 years of pitting us against each other,” Allred said Tuesday. “It’s time we had a senator who will bring us together, I’ll be that senator. We’ve had enough of ‘me’ guys.”

Cruz didn’t mention Allred in a statement he issued after his own easy primary victory.

“This is about Texas, about building bridges, fighting for our cadets, expanding highways, creating jobs, and protecting the state that we cherish so deeply,” Cruz said. “Never before has it been more important to unify and fight against the radical left who threaten to change what makes this state great.”

Henry J. Gomez

Henry J. Gomez is a senior national political reporter for NBC News.

Adam Edelman

,

Jason Abbruzzese

,

Greg Hyatt

and

Ali Vitali

contributed

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