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Trump, Biden close in on clinching nominations after broad Super Tuesday victories

Signage for voters looking to vote in-person at the Wellington E. Webb Municipal Office Building on Super Tuesday, March 5, 2024, in Denver, Colorado. Photo by Marc Piscotty | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Despite facing 91 felony counts, hefty civil penalties and a packed 2024 legal calendar, Donald Trump emerged on Super Tuesday as the Republican Party’s presumptive choice as its presidential candidate in November.

The former president has secured 995 of the necessary 1,215 GOP delegates needed to clinch the GOP nomination, and likely will meet that number in primaries later this month.

Super Tuesday’s contests did the same for President Joe Biden, delivering to him 1,497 of the 1,968 Democratic delegates needed for his party’s nomination at the Democratic National Convention in August.

Trump’s lone challenger dropped from the Republican U.S. presidential nomination race Wednesday after the former president’s overwhelming victories in more than a dozen Super Tuesday states.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley suspended her bid without endorsing the party front-runner, saying “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.”

“At its best, politics is about bringing people into your cause, not turning them away,” Haley continued in a speech from Charleston, South Carolina. “And our conservative cause badly needs more people. This is now his time for choosing.”

On top of that, Trump at last earned the endorsement of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, according to news reports.

Despite the overwhelming performances, neither front-runner produced a clean sweep Tuesday, as Haley holdouts in Vermont and a tiny ripple of Biden opposition in American Samoa as well as an “uncommitted” vote in Minnesota revealed vulnerabilities.

Haley’s exit from her long-shot campaign all but cements what voters have expected: A November rematch between Biden and Trump, whose loss in 2020 sparked a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Trump faces four federal criminal charges for attempts to subvert the 2020 presidential election results, a case stalled by his legal appeals for complete immunity from criminal prosecution — a matter that will be decided in the coming months by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The high court ruled Monday in another legal tangle involving Trump. The justices unanimously decided Trump could remain on Colorado’s Republican primary ballot after that state’s Supreme Court removed him based on a Civil War-era constitutional clause barring insurrectionists from holding future office.

Trump targets Biden

In a dark victory speech Tuesday night from his Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach, Florida, Trump focused on Biden, whom he called “the worst president in the history of our country.” Trump blamed inflation and an immigration surge on Biden.

Trump maintained that he was the victim of election fraud — a claim that has been widely debunked — and unfair targeting by the Justice Department under Biden.

“In some ways, we’re a third-world country,” he said Tuesday. “We’re a third-world country at our borders and we’re a third-world country at our elections. And we need to stop that.”

Trump has consistently claimed his efforts that led to the Jan. 6 attack were meant to counter fraudulent election results, but has shown no evidence of determinative voter fraud. Courts dismissed dozens of claims he brought following his reelection loss in 2020.

‘Uncommitted’ votes

On the Democratic side, as predicted, Biden also finished Super Tuesday as the clear Democratic choice in more than a dozen states.

However, neither Biden nor Trump cleanly swept their parties’ primaries and caucuses throughout 16 states and one U.S. territory.

The contests were held in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Virginia. Biden also won Iowa’s Democratic mail-in vote Tuesday.

While both men picked up hundreds of party delegates during the single largest day of nominating contests on the 2024 race calendar, Haley squeezed out a win in Vermont, picking up nine delegates, according to The Associated Press delegate tracker.

On the Democratic side, Biden lost a handful of delegates in Minnesota to voters who chose “uncommitted,” apparently as a protest of the administration’s stance on Israel’s continuing bombardment of the Gaza Strip. As of Wednesday morning, nearly 19% of voters in the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party primary, the state’s Democratic Party, had chosen “uncommitted.”

Biden split delegates with politically unknown entrepreneur Jason Palmer who defeated the incumbent in a small contest on the U.S. territory of American Samoa.

McConnell endorses Trump; Haley holds out

After Tuesday’s results made clear Trump would be the Republican nominee, Kentucky’s McConnell, the most high-profile GOP official to withhold support from Trump, issued an endorsement.

“It is abundantly clear that former President Trump has earned the requisite support of Republican voters to be our nominee for President of the United States. It should come as no surprise that as nominee, he will have my support,” McConnell said in a statement first reported by Politico.

Haley did not immediately endorse Trump after a primary race that became increasingly bitter as the field winnowed.

Trump did not mention Haley’s name in a Tuesday night victory speech and it was Biden who made the first appeal to her voters in a campaign statement Wednesday.

“Donald Trump made it clear he doesn’t want Nikki Haley’s supporters,” Biden said in the statement. “I want to be clear: There is a place for them in my campaign.”

Biden said Haley supporters may not agree with him on many issues but could find common ground on “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.”

Delegate count mounting

Biden and Trump have not yet mathematically clinched party nominations, but the symbolic victories are expected by month’s end.

At the time that Haley called off her campaign Wednesday morning, she had garnered 89 delegates, according to the latest AP count.

Looking ahead, nine Republican delegates are up for grabs in American Samoa on Thursday, and GOP nominating contests on March 12 in Georgia, Hawaii, Mississippi and Washington carry a total combined award of 161 delegates.

Democrats in Hawaii go to the polls Thursday, where Biden could gain a possible 22 delegates.

On March 12 Biden’s party offers up another 235 delegates in contests in Georgia, Mississippi and Washington.

The next two largest delegate hauls for both Biden and Trump come on March 19 when a total 350 Republican delegates are available in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kansas and Ohio, and 379 Democratic Party delegates are up for grabs in those same states, except Florida which will not hold a Democratic nominating contest this year.

Down ballot results

The struggle for control of Congress also gained more clarity in primary results.

In a marquee U.S. Senate race, Democratic U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff and Republican former professional baseball player Steve Garvey advanced to the general election for a California U.S. Senate seat.

Garvey edged out two other Democratic House members, Katie Porter and Barbara Lee, to clear the state’s “jungle primary,” where candidates of all parties run in a single race and the top two members face off in a general election.

Sen. Laphonza Butler, a Democrat, has held the seat since longtime Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s death last year. Butler did not seek reelection.

In Texas, Sen. Ted Cruz easily secured renomination on the Republican side, while nearly 60% of Democratic voters chose U.S. Rep. Colin Allred to face Cruz in the fall.

Neither race is expected to change the makeup of the Senate, with Schiff considered a near-lock to win in November and Cruz only slightly less favored in his race, according to analysis from Inside Elections.

In a closely watched race in Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District, former U.S. Department of Justice official Shomari Figures and state House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels advanced to a runoff for the Democratic nomination.

The Republican runoff will be between former state Sen. Dick Brewbaker of Pike Road and attorney Caroleene Dobson.

The district, which federal courts redrew after state lawmakers ignored a court order to create a second majority-Black district, is expected to favor Democrats in November, possibly affecting the balance of power in the House.

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