For Donald Trump, it was a mostly Super Tuesday. In states across the country, he won commanding majorities. His victory margin in Texas was 60 points; in Alabama, he garnered over 80 percent of primary voters. But he also handily won states that initially seemed most favorable to Nikki Haley, cruising to victory in Virginia and Massachusetts. He racked up hundreds of delegates and is close to having enough to clinch the Republican nomination outright.

Super Tuesday also marked the end of the road for Haley’s primary candidacy, as she announced the morning after that she was withdrawing from the race. The only state she managed to win was Vermont. As of this writing, she did not win a single county in North Carolina, Tennessee, or Texas. While she performed better in certain suburbs, the race often wasn’t close even there. In Texas, Trump won Travis County (home of Austin) by more than 20 points.

Most of the prominent early primaries in 2024 emphasized retail politics: townhalls, fairs, and the focused cultivation of local networks. That environment was to some extent an asset to Haley’s guerilla campaign. She could show up at a multitude of small events to make her case to voters. But the sheer size of Super Tuesday meant that national momentum mattered more than grip-and-grin efforts. As the Trump victories have piled up, the national GOP electorate seems ready to turn the page on the primary.

After a string of losses (some closer, some not), Haley’s bid risked becoming a protest candidacy rather than a viable political alternative to Trump. While the policy contrasts between her and Trump could be overdrawn, her agenda on entitlements and immigration (among other issues) seemed unlikely to gain traction in a more populist GOP. Thus, she has exited the race, with a warning that Trump needs to take the concerns of her suburbanite base seriously.

Trump partly has his opponents to thank for his victory. A series of politically charged criminal indictments in 2023 helped rally Republican voters to him after the disappointing 2022 midterms. Those indictments transformed the political landscape and may yet hinder him in the general election. In exit polls, a sizable minority of Republicans said that they thought a criminal conviction would disqualify him from the presidency.

It’s now unclear, however, whether Trump will be tried on many of the charges against him before Election Day. Washington, D.C., District Judge Tanya Chutkan had originally scheduled the trial for the indictments involving Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election to begin on March 4, the day before Super Tuesday. Legal wrangling has delayed the trial’s start. Instead, in a dramatic inversion worthy of a novel, March 4 became the day the Supreme Court unanimously rejected the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision to knock Trump off the ballot under the Fourteenth Amendment. The day that could have highlighted perhaps the most contentious aspect of Trump’s presidency became instead an occasion for vindication of the former president’s personal narrative: he can now claim that the Supreme Court’s unanimous rebuke of his opponents is proof of their overreaching.

 While the ultimate upshot of the indictments remains to be seen, Joe Biden’s policies also may have helped boost Trump. Upon entering the White House, Biden set about deconstructing his predecessor’s immigration policies. The ensuing breakdown at the border has become a major political drag on the president—and plays into Trump’s political hands. Immigration vaulted Trump into the GOP nomination in 2016, and its increased salience has also helped him in 2024. Exit polls in Virginia and North Carolina showed that immigration was the top issue for Republican primary voters, and it narrowly trailed the economy in California.

These polls also suggest that the GOP is still not the MAGA party, though Trump is its clear standard-bearer. Even in states that Trump won by blowout margins, most voters did not see themselves as part of the “MAGA movement.” Trump got close to 74 percent of the vote in North Carolina, but only 40 percent of GOP voters identified themselves as “MAGA.” Nevertheless, within Republican politics, Trump is no longer a niche brand. A sign of the consolidation of Republican primary voters around Trump on Super Tuesday was the breadth of his win. According to the exit polls of some states, he won both moderates and conservatives. Though he held a major advantage among voters without a college degree, he also won college-graduate voters in North Carolina and California.

But back to that mostly: while Trump’s margins of victory were impressive, they were not quite equal to those of Biden in the Democratic primary. On Super Tuesday in 1992, George H. W. Bush scored many 40- and 50-point victories over Pat Buchanan, yet Buchanan’s primary challenge pointed to real structural weaknesses Bush faced in running for reelection. The dynamics of 1992 and 2024 are very different. Then, Bush was an incumbent presiding over a weak economy after three terms of GOP control of the White House; this year, Trump is a former president running against a deeply unpopular incumbent, and the salience of Biden’s own policy record might be enough to override any tensions within the Republican coalition.

Still, those tensions remain. A battle between various factions of the GOP kept simmering on Super Tuesday. Texas governor Greg Abbott and attorney general Ken Paxton mounted slates of statehouse candidates to challenge some of their fellow Republicans. In Massachusetts, two camps fought for seats on the state’s Republican Committee as part of a protracted leadership struggle. Losing ground with college-educated voters has cost the GOP in many off-year elections and has even tipped the scales in presidential cycles. Even as blue-collar voters form an increasingly important part of the Republican coalition, the GOP needs some white-collar voters, too.

Biden’s troubles may offer another warning for Republicans. Biden entered the White House with high approval ratings and the promise of a return to normalcy. Inflation, escalating conflicts abroad, and the border crisis have eroded his standing. During Biden’s tenure, the public has grown more hawkish on illegal immigration. A Monmouth poll from late February showed skyrocketing concern with illegal immigration and majority support for a wall along the southern border. In San Francisco on Tuesday night, voters approved ballot measures that would give new powers to the police and drug-test some welfare recipients.

When a political coalition is trusted with power and fails to meet public expectations, it risks a backlash. Popular dissatisfaction helped turn Republicans out of power in 2018 and 2020. Democratic unpopularity gave the GOP an opening in 2022, but voter doubts about various Republican candidates kept the party from making the most of this opportunity. Just as Democrats are struggling with voters on immigration and border issues, the GOP has yet to settle on a clear and persuasive abortion message. Vanguard identity politics remain deeply unpopular with the American voting middle—but so, too, are strident challenges to the integrity of American elections.

In setting the stage for the general election, Super Tuesday illustrates the struggles within and between the political parties.

Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images


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