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  • Kate O'Mahony

Super Tuesday: a tale of four years ago?

A phenomenon in the US electoral system, Super Tuesday usually acts as a decisive moment for the presidential candidates. Yet the choice of this year’s presidential candidates being something of a foregone conclusion has made it a less than super moment in this year’s election cycle.

The first Tuesday in March marks the day in which most states rally to hold their primaries or caucuses to select delegates, who represent the chosen states’ nominees for their presidential candidate. Biden finished the day with 1,866 delegates with another 102 to go to secure the nomination and Trump at 1,075, 140 short. Both of them will definitely claim the remainders. Super Tuesday has stood as a key turning point in many election cycles, serving as a decisive moment in identifying the front runners for nomination. The day saw Biden emerge as the clear victor, brushing aside any concerns of a youthful competitor rising to take his place. While the incumbent party always enjoys more certainty in their primary process, the past year has proven a diminishing threat to Donald Trump’s standing as the presumptive Republican nominee for the presidential race. However, the Tuesday, as most super ones go, did not pass without surprise.

As expected, the Wednesday following the Tuesday marked the withdrawal of Trump’s key challenger, Nikki Haley. Unexpectedly, it also saw her win Vermont’s delegates. However, it has long been clear that Trump stood far ahead of the rest of his field, as Haley’s two primary successes were never going to challenge the former president. Nevertheless, the support she gathered could foreshadow potential challenges for Trump in securing broader support come November. 

"The lack of unity among the Republican contenders is indicative of the deep factionalism in the Republican party."

Although Washington DC and Vermont were her only victories, Haley made substantial leeway in North Carolina, Virginia, and Massachusetts, particularly among young, college educated and suburban voters. Interestingly, she is yet to endorse Trump, and while this is not hugely surprising, the likelihood of her rallying fully behind the Trump campaign following her loss is unlikely. After losing out to Hillary Clinton in 2016 for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders took to touring the country in support of Clinton, despite their ideological and political differences. The lack of unity among the Republican contenders is indicative of the deep factionalism in the Republican party. A factional divide that could prove to be their undoing.

Now the question remains as to where Haley’s supporters will go. The coalition of anti-Trump Republicans and independents she gathered now hold considerable power. Following the defeat, Biden remarked that these voters have a place in his campaign. Should he succeed in securing their support, we may be looking at an identical result to 2020. Whilst Trump echoed these comments, the scornful manner in which he dismissed Nikki Haley casts doubt on his sincerity in seeking to win those undecideds. Examining the factors that differ now from the 2020 election, Biden’s advancing age and Trump’s persisting legal battles stand at the forefront. And when considering this crucial group of voters, Trump’s divisive and polarising demeanour may not be the most appealing. 

The other surprise comes in the form of a defeat for sitting President Biden. Dreams of a clean sweep were dashed when the unknown Democrat challenger Jason Palmer surpassed Biden to claim victory in the overseas territory American Samoa. The territory is not able to vote in the November election, but the failure for Biden here speaks to an uncertainty that is often absent in the re-election of incumbent presidents.

When scrutinising Biden’s vulnerabilities at the polling booth, the votes he stands to lose do not come so much from middle America but rather from progressives. Be it African Americans tiring of his lack of action regarding police reform and voting rights to an expanding faction of disillusioned youth angered by Biden’s unwavering defence of Israel. The uncommitted Democratic allegiance in Michigan cast over 100,000 votes in protest of Biden’s position in the Middle East. It is increasingly evident that the groups instrumental in securing Joe Biden’s seat in the White House four years ago are now threatening to boycott the ballot paper.

Overall, this underscores the potential for 2024 to see a record low turnout. Given that 60% of Americans say that Trump should not run for president and 70% are saying the same about Biden, will political apathy prove to be overwhelming for the American people? 

Images: (1) Flickr - U.S. Secretary of Defence; (2) Flickr - Gage Skidmore; (3) Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA 2.0



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