Super Tuesday takeaways: Biden and Trump momentum can’t be slowed as Haley suspends her campaign

By Nicholas Riccardi and Brian Slodysko, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The picture of the presidential race has hardly been cloudy for some time, even if it is one that most voters say they don’t want to see.

On not-so-Super Tuesday, there were few surprises. It became ever clearer President Joe Biden was on a path to the Democratic nomination that only some kind of personal catastrophe could alter.

His White House predecessor, Donald Trump is headed to a third Republican nomination, and a rematch against Biden — if Trump can navigate the 91 criminal charges against him and avoid any other calamity. Trump’s last major GOP challenger, Nikki Haley, suspended her campaign on Wednesday after being soundly defeated across the country on Super Tuesday.

Enthusiasm for Biden was not the story of Tuesday’s primary contests, with some Democrats even voting “uncommitted” rather than for the incumbent. For Trump, there were cautionary signs even with his string of victories.

Some key takeaways from Super Tuesday:

HALEY’S STEPPING ASIDE

Haley won her first state of the primary season, Vermont, but that was no cause to talk about momentum. The former U.N. ambassador and South Carolina governor continued her long streak of losing big to Trump in Republican primaries in every region of the country. Her lone other victory had come in last week’s primary in the District of Columbia.

She fell short even in states like Virginia, where the electorate, rich in college-educated suburban voters, played to her strength. Soon came the announcement about her campaign suspension.

That doesn’t mean her candidacy wasn’t impactful. She repeatedly said that Trump cannot win a general election, in large part because he will have trouble winning over the kind of Republicans who supported her. In a close election, even a small move of voters away from Trump could flip a state and alter the outcome.

Haley didn’t endorse Trump during her remarks Wednesday in Charleston, South Carolina. She challenged him to win the support of the moderate Republicans and independent voters who backed her.

Republican presidential candidate, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley poses for pictures with her supporters following a campaign rally on March 4, 2024 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Emil Lippe/Getty Images) 

During her campaign, Haley delivered the kind of stark personal attacks on Trump that could show up in Democratic ads against him in the fall. She slammed him for an $83 million judgment against him for defaming a woman who sued him for sexual assault and warned that he could transform the Republican National Committee into his own “legal slush fund.”

AS VERMONT GOES, SO GOES VERMONT

Vermont was once a stronghold of old-guard Republicanism, exclusively electing GOP candidates to statewide office for more than a century. But the state that handed Haley her only win on Super Tuesday long ago ceded that reputation.

Now Vermont, which last swung for a Republican in a presidential contest in 1988, is perhaps better known for progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders, the jam band Phish and a crunchy strain of back-to-earth lifestyle.

So, while Vermont handed Haley her first statewide victory, the state itself is decidedly not in step with Trump and the modern Republican Party.

THE BIDEN-TRUMP MIRROR PRIMARY

What has been obvious for weeks, is now beyond reasonable dispute: Biden and Trump are the overwhelming favorites to face each other in November.

They could not be more different in outlook but they seemed to be mirror images of each other during the primary season.

Trump wanted a coronation, but Haley made him fight at least somewhat to win the nomination. She’s held onto a stubborn chunk of voters, a possible indication that part of the GOP isn’t as enthusiastic about Trump as expected.

Former President Trump Holds Super Tuesday Election Night Event At Mar-A-Lago
Republican presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump gestures to supporters at an election-night watch party at Mar-a-Lago on March 5, 2024 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Win McNamee/Getty Images) 

Biden, on the other hand, faces a lack of Democratic enthusiasm on paper, but not in the primary. Polls show problems for him among some of his party’s core demographics, including younger and Black voters. But Biden, who hasn’t faced any significant challengers, has won his primaries by huge margins.

The only possible sign of trouble for him Tuesday was an unusually high number of Democrats voting “uncommitted” in Minnesota in protest of the president’s handling of the war in Gaza.

It may be that one or both of these two politicians is more hobbled than it appears — but nonetheless they are the only options.

HOUSE RACES, PRIMARY PRIMACY

Super Tuesday is so vast that there were primaries for more than one-quarter of all seats in the House of Representatives — 115 of 438. But only eight of those seats are likely to be competitive in November.