After Super Tuesday, A Primary Ends and A General Election Begins

Happy Wednesday! And remember, even if the overall economic outlook is improving, things are still looking tough for independent restaurant owners and their employees. That’s why your neighborhood joint’s cheeseburger is getting pricier and why Bidenomics still isn’t selling with voters.

Up to Speed

  • A member-versus-member Republican primary in Alabama—forced by a mid-decade, court-ordered redistricting—saw Rep. Barry Moore beat Rep. Jerry Carl for the nomination in the state’s 1st Congressional District. It was close, with Moore outpacing Carl 51.5 percent to 48.5 percent with most precincts reporting. Moore is now a shoo-in for the November general election in the ruby red seat.
  • In American Samoa, a U.S. island territory in the South Pacific, unknown Democratic White House candidate Jason Palmer pulled off a surprise victory in the Democratic caucus, trumping President Joe Biden. Out of 91 total votes cast, Palmer received 51 and Biden 40. The president, who otherwise swept the Democratic contests on Super Tuesday, thus became the first incumbent Democrat to lose a contested caucus or primary in decades. American Samoa was also an outlier four years ago, when it delivered billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg his only win in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.
  • Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff appears headed toward victory in California’s Senate race after Republican Steve Garvey advanced to the November general election. Garvey was running second behind Schiff in the state’s all-party jungle primary, with 47 percent of precincts reporting, boxing out progressive Reps. Katie Porter and Barbara Lee from the fall contest. Garvey’s second-place finish guarantees that Schiff will not have to face a Democratic runoff against either Porter or Lee in deep-blue California. In fact, Schiff invested resources to prop up Garvey and help effect that outcome. Garvey, 75, played first base for the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres during a storied, nearly 20-year Major League Baseball career that ended in the late 1980s.
  • North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson won the Republican nomination for governor, and it wasn’t even close. As first reported by The Dispatch, Republican insiders in the Tar Heel State had hoped to elevate attorney and businessman Bill Graham (who finished third) and block Robinson. These Republicans worry Robinson cannot win a general election because of his history of offensive rhetoric—including Holocaust denialism and other antisemitic comments. Democrats nominated state Attorney General Josh Stein, who is Jewish.
  • Also in North Carolina, Mark Harris won the Republican primary for a Charlotte-area House seat. You may remember Harris from his 2018 congressional bid, when he appeared to eke out an exceedingly narrow win over his Democratic opponent. The state’s election board refused to certify Harris’s win after Democrats accused Republicans and Harris’ campaign of fraud. Harris was never seated, and a new election was called for the seat—in which he did not run. Multiple operatives working for Harris were later indicted on fraud charges. Now, in 2024, Harris is on a glide path to Congress since his current district is a safe Republican seat.
  • In Texas, Senate Democrats have the contest they were hoping for as they make another run at incumbent Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. Rep. Colin Allred, a former NFL player, easily won the state’s Democratic nomination for Senate, defeating Roland Gutierrez, a state senator. Texas has consistently been Republican territory in statewide races since the mid-1990s, but Cruz barely won reelection in 2018. Democrats are hopeful that Allred, who flipped a Republican-held House seat anchored in the Dallas suburbs that same year, can pull off an upset.
  • The fallout from Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell’s decision to step down as Republican leader in November continues on Capitol Hill. Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a former McConnell leadership deputy, was the first to announce his bid for leadership last week. This week, he was joined by South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the Republican whip. Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the Republican conference chairman known to be considering a bid for leader, opted instead to run for whip, the No. 2 ranking position. Meanwhile, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, a McConnell protege, informed colleagues he was running for conference chairman, the No. 3 post.

Trump Rolls on Super Tuesday; Haley Suspends Campaign

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley announces the suspension of her presidential campaign on March 6, 2024, in Daniel Island, South Carolina. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley announces the suspension of her presidential campaign on March 6, 2024, in Daniel Island, South Carolina. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Donald Trump pitched a near shutout of Nikki Haley in Republican primaries across the country Tuesday, solidifying his grip on the GOP presidential nomination and kicking off a rematch with the Democratic incumbent, President Joe Biden. 

Trump lost the 2020 election to Biden at the ballot box, but in defeating Haley in 14 of the 15 Republican primaries held on Super Tuesday, the former president has earned a chance to redeem a loss that has so clearly rankled him in the years since. He has now secured 995 of the 1,215 convention delegates needed to become the presumptive Republican nominee, compared to just 89 for Haley. 

“This was an amazing day, an amazing night,” Trump told supporters who gathered Tuesday evening at Mar-a-Lago, the former president’s winter residence and private social club in Palm Beach, Florida. “We have a great Republican Party with tremendous talent, and we want to have unity. And we’re going to have unity. And it’s going to happen very quickly.” 

Will it?

Speaking in Charleston, South Carolina, Nikki Haley finally did what many political observers expected she’d do after losses in Iowa, New Hampshire, and her home state: She exited the Republican primary.

However, the former South Carolina governor and ex-U.S. ambassador to the United Nations declined to endorse Trump, in whose cabinet she served. Instead, Haley laid out a path for the 45th president to potentially earn her endorsement, predicated on him making amends with the sizable minority of traditional Republicans and independent voters who consistently supported her in the primaries.

“I have always been a conservative Republican and always supported the Republican nominee,” Haley said during brief remarks announcing the suspension of her campaign. “But on this question, as she did on so many others, Margaret Thatcher provided some good advice when she said, quote: ‘Never just follow the crowd. Always make up your own mind.’” 

“It is now up to Donald Trump to earn the votes of those in our party and beyond it who did not support him. And I hope he does that,” Haley added. “At its best, politics is about bringing people into your cause, not turning them away. And our conservative cause badly needs more people. This is now his time for choosing.”

Trump responded quickly, mocking his vanquished opponent while half-heartedly appealing to her supporters. “Nikki Haley got TROUNCED last night,” the former president said in a lengthy post on Truth Social. “I’d like to thank my family, friends, and the Great Republican Party for helping me to produce, by far, the most successful Super Tuesday in HISTORY, and would further like to invite all of the Haley supporters to join the greatest movement in the history of our Nation.” 

Biden, however, appeared to be listening to Haley. He swiftly issued a statement inviting voters who supported her in the Republican primary to join his campaign. 

“Donald Trump made it clear he doesn’t want Nikki Haley’s supporters. I want to be clear: There is a place for them in my campaign,” the president said. “I know there is a lot we won’t agree on. But on the fundamental issues of preserving American democracy, on standing up for the rule of law, on treating each other with decency and dignity and respect, on preserving NATO and standing up to America’s adversaries, I hope and believe we can find common ground.” 

Haley supporters are no doubt disappointed that her 2024 bid has ended, especially those among them who no longer feel welcome by Trump and the supporters he’s attracted to an increasingly populist Republican Party. But considering her losses in all but two contests this primary—Vermont and Washington, D.C.—the underdog White House hopeful could no longer credibly claim the GOP nomination was attainable. Indeed, Haley did not just lose—she lost big. 

Most races were called soon after the polls closed. In most states, Trump won by wide margins of 60, 70, and even upward of 80 percent of the total vote.

Biden similarly swept the Democratic primaries on Super Tuesday. (Except for that weird Jason Palmer victory in American Samoa. Jason who?) Now virtually assured of a rematch with his predecessor, the president came out swinging, with Biden campaign chairwoman Jen O’Malley Dillon and Biden campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez arguing in a memorandum emailed to reporters that their candidate is on track to beat Trump a second time.

“The Republican nominee is cash-strapped, beleaguered by a host of external issues, and is running on an extreme agenda that is already proving to be a significant liability for key voting blocs that are critical to the pathway to 270 electoral votes,” they wrote in the memo. This confidence is bolstered by the record amounts of campaign cash being raised by Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, and the significant percentage of GOP and independent voters who have supported Haley in Republican primaries, among other encouraging metrics.

Of course, while it’s true Trump has liabilities—trouble raising money, under indictment in four criminal cases, and a fractious Republican coalition—Biden has plenty of problems of his own. 

Chief among them are potential defections from the coalition that delivered him the presidency in 2020, low approval ratings, and worsening polls that show Trump beating him nationally and in key swing states. How does the memo address that particular Biden problem?

“National polling, eight months out, confirms what we know to be true: this will be a very close general election contest like all modern presidential elections are—but, we have a clear path to victory.”

With Sinema Retiring, It’s Gallego or Lake for Arizona Senate

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who left the Democratic Party in 2022 to become an independent, will not seek reelection in Arizona’s competitive Senate race. “Because I choose civility, understanding, listening, working together to get stuff done, I will leave the Senate at the end of this year,” she said Tuesday in a post announcing her retirement.

Sinema’s coming departure dashes the prospect of a three-person race in Arizona, and it leaves the field open for likely Democratic nominee Rep. Ruben Gallego and likely Republican nominee Kari Lake to duke it out. In the few polls of a potential three-way contest, Gallego averages a plurality of about 35 percent, followed by Lake at 31 percent and Sinema at 22 percent. 

Who benefits more from Sinema not running? While not universal, there’s some consensus that the advantage goes to Gallego and Democrats.

“This is a big gift to Ruben Gallego for sure,” said Barrett Marson, a Republican operative in the Grand Canyon State, “because it is now a binary choice between an election-denying, McCain-hating, anti-abortion candidate versus an ultra-liberal candidate who, granted, hasn’t been defined yet.”

An Iraq War veteran, the 44-year-old Gallego has represented a Phoenix-area district in the House of Representatives since 2015. But as one veteran political operative in the state pointed out to Dispatch Politics, that means Gallego may have less name identification in other parts of the state, including the Democratic-heavy Pima County around Tucson.

Gallego is an ardent progressive and the face of the left wing of the Democratic Party that resented Sinema’s willingness to undercut her own party or deal with Republicans. But with Sinema out of the picture, both he and the Democratic party are forging ahead. Gallego thanked Sinema “for her nearly two decades of service to our state” before pivoting his message toward the general election. 

“Arizona, we are at a crossroads. Protecting abortion access, tackling housing affordability, securing our water supply, defending our democracy—all of this and more is on the line,” he wrote Tuesday. “It’s time Democrats, Independents, and Republicans come together and reject Kari Lake and her dangerous positions.”

Not every Sinema voter, however, is a straightforward convert to Gallego. Before Sinema’s election in 2018, the Grand Canyon State had not sent a Democrat to the Senate since moderate Dennis DeConcini won reelection in 1988. Since 2018, Democrats have won big statewide—from Joe Biden’s narrow victory in the 2020 presidential election to wins for Sen. Mark Kelly and Gov. Katie Hobbs in 2022. But all these Democrats ran to the center-left, as institutionalist liberals rather than hard-charging progressives. 

“The only Democrats to win big statewide offices in Arizona have run as bipartisan, milquetoast Democrats,” one Republican operative in Arizona—who, like other sources, was granted anonymity to speak more candidly about the race—told Dispatch Politics following Sinema’s departure. “Ruben represents the opposite, and it will be challenging for him to recast himself as a middle-of-the-road Democrat after literally shoving Sinema off the stage for daring to break party orthodoxy.”

The solution to Gallego’s extremism problem might be to paint his likely Republican opponent, Kari Lake, as even more extreme—a task that he and national Democrats are ready and willing to do.

Lake, a 54-year-old former TV news anchor, ran for governor in 2022, winning a competitive Republican primary by aligning herself with Donald Trump and the unsubstantiated claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, including in Arizona. She lost the gubernatorial race to Hobbs, the incumbent secretary of state who had overseen the 2020 election. Lake has never conceded her defeat in 2022, and just this week, she refused to say whether Biden and Hobbs won their elections in Arizona. 

But recognizing the struggles Republicans have had to win statewide in Arizona lately, Lake has tried to soften her image in her current race for Senate. While in 2020 she disparaged supporters of the late Republican Sen. John McCain and told them to “get the hell out” of a campaign event of hers, Lake has since claimed the comment was in jest and attempted to make peace with the McCain family (to little avail). On the other hand, Lake mocked Nikki Haley’s defeat in nearly every Super Tuesday primary by misspelling Haley’s given first name in a tweet Wednesday morning. 

Nevertheless, the Republican establishment has quickly coalesced around Lake, who, like Gallego, still has to win a primary in August. Last month, the National Republican Senatorial Committee endorsed Lake and seems willing to spend resources to reclaim the seat for the GOP. Will it be enough to get the “McCain Republicans” and other GOP-leaning voters to pull the lever for Lake?

“While in Washington, they may think that Lake has successfully rebranded herself, in Arizona? It may be tougher to convince the former McCain people that she’s a new woman. They’re still smarting at her swipes,” said the veteran political operative. On the other hand, this person said, Arizona Republicans are eager to stop losing important elections.

“The people who are desperate to retake this seat—and there are many—they will hold their nose and vote for Lake,” the operative said. “I think they want to win.”

But a GOP strategist who has seen internal polling of the race told Dispatch Politics things aren’t getting better for Lake with Sinema gone. “Lake fares worse on the two-way ballot than she does on the three-way ballot,” this strategist said.

Much will depend on factors outside of the Senate race, including the strong possibility of an abortion initiative making its way to the ballot in Arizona this fall. But as with other elections across the country, it’s the race at the top of the ticket, now effectively between Biden and Trump, that could make all the difference. In Arizona, just as at the national level, voters in the center appear to be faced with two unpalatable choices.

Notable and Quotable

“A woman’s not gonna be a good president. She ain’t got no balls to scratch. She’s just gonna scratch her head. All a woman’s good for in my book is having babies and taking care of the house.”

—A North Carolina voter to NBC News on why he did not consider voting for Nikki Haley, March 5, 2024
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