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What Stood Out from Super Tuesday


— While one can point out weaknesses for both Donald Trump and Joe Biden in their Super Tuesday performances, each turned in dominant showings.

— Senate matchups were set in the megastates of California and Texas, with the former a snoozer and the latter a sleeper.

— Only one House member lost a primary—so far—but a few others showed weaknesses.

Super Tuesday highlights

It turns out that the 2024 presidential primary process will not be historic, at least in this sense: Nikki Haley’s victory in the Washington, D.C. primary over the weekend and then Vermont on Tuesday foreclosed the possibility of both Joe Biden and Donald Trump each sweeping every nominating contest this year, something that has not happened in the modern era. And Biden technically lost a contest, too, falling to Jason Palmer (who?) in the caucus in American Samoa, where a whopping 91 votes were cast.

Oh yeah, and by the way, Trump and Biden easily won everything else on Super Tuesday, putting both on the precipice of “presumptive nominee” status and winding down an uncompetitive primary season.

Beyond the primary blowouts, there was a lot of action last night, both below the surface in the presidential primaries and in the many down-ballot primaries held across the country. Here’s what stood out to us in the immediate aftermath of a long night of watching returns:

— As we mentioned above, Haley won Vermont and Washington, D.C. A consistent pattern throughout the primary season has been Haley performing best in places that, in general elections, are heavily Democratic. Those two overall victories punctuate that trend: DC and Vermont, respectively, provided Biden with his two best margins of victory in 2020. Per reports from many news organizations Wednesday morning, Haley was set to announce that she was suspending her campaign.

— This pattern continued to hold within states. In Virginia, Haley won the deep blue, close-in D.C. suburbs, as well as some Democratic college towns dotted throughout the state, like our home base of Charlottesville, which she carried by 50 points. But she still got blown out statewide as Trump dominated in much of the rest of the state, and he even carried Loudoun County in Northern Virginia and Henrico County outside of Richmond, hubs of college-educated voters that Haley would have had to have won by a lot to even come close statewide (Trump won by 28 points overall).

— If Trump’s weaker areas were bluer, higher-education bastions, indicating his ongoing problems within his own party with more moderate white collar voters, Biden’s weaker places were a mix of different kinds of places. While Biden won 85% in Texas, for instance, his shares were much weaker in South Texas, a traditionally Democratic area that swung hard to Trump in 2020. In North Carolina, “no preference” got 37%, its highest county-level share, in Robeson County, an Obama-to-Trump area that we have previously profiled in the Crystal Ball. These are places where the national Democratic brand has weakened among more conservative Democratic voters, some of whom (like in North Carolina, a party registration state) are registered Democrats who vote Republican in general elections (Biden still got 87% statewide). Biden also saw some protest votes presumably on his left, like in Minnesota, where Biden only got about 70% statewide, and “uncommitted” got about a quarter of the vote in Ramsey and Hennepin, the core, dark blue Twin Cities counties.

— All that said, and as we wrote last week, there probably is a bit too much straining going on to use primary results as predictors of the fall. While one can find weak points for both Biden and Trump, these were generally dominant performances befitting of an actual incumbent lacking a major challenger and a quasi-incumbent whose lone remaining rival, Haley, just has not shown much appeal to the core of the GOP.

Let’s turn to some takeaways from the down-ballot primaries:

— The California Senate race is effectively over, as Rep. Adam Schiff (D, CA-30) and former Major League Baseball star Steve Garvey (R) advanced to the general election. Schiff helped pick Garvey as his opponent by advertising on his behalf, thus preventing an intraparty November matchup with Rep. Katie Porter (D, CA-47), who was well outside the top two. Schiff can now coast in a general election matchup in one of the bluest states in the country.

— The other Senate primary worth watching on Super Tuesday was in Texas, where Rep. Colin Allred (D, TX-32) won the right to take on Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in what is probably the Democrats’ best pickup opportunity on the Senate map—but this is a race we rate as Likely Republican, so we still see it as a clearly uphill climb for Democrats.

— In what is shaping up to be the cycle’s marquee gubernatorial race, North Carolinians nominated state Attorney General Josh Stein (D) and Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (R) in a Toss-up contest. When Stein first ran statewide, in 2016, he won his primary by an underwhelming 53%-47%, so we were on the lookout for similar weakness this time. Similarly, we were watching how many Republicans had reservations about Robinson, who has a long trail of outlandish and controversial comments. But both nominees won their primaries with around two-thirds of the vote. In the race to replace Stein as attorney general, Democrats nominated Rep. Jeff Jackson (D, NC-14), who was recently drawn out of his district. Though a Republican-aligned group apparently tried to meddle in this primary to the benefit of a lesser-known Democrat, Jackson won the nomination with 55%—he’ll face Rep. Dan Bishop (R, NC-8) in the general election.

— We said last week that we were going to refrain from saying much about the California House primaries while there was so much vote outstanding, and we are going to stick to that. That said, it is likely a relief to both national Republicans and Democrats that in CA-22, a Biden +13 district that Rep. David Valadao (R) is defending, that—so far—national favorites Valadao and former state Assemblyman Rudy Salas (D) were at 34% and 28%, respectively, as they sought a rematch of their 2022 matchup, with other candidates Chris Mathys (R) and Melissa Hurtado (D) behind at 22% and 15%, respectively (this race is not yet called).

— Republicans have been on a decent run lately with congressional candidate selection, including on Tuesday when veteran Laurie Buckhout defeated 2020 and 2022 nominee Sandy Smith in the Republican primary for NC-1, a northeastern North Carolina swing seat held by Rep. Don Davis (D). Smith has a ton of baggage, including past allegations of domestic abuse, so Republicans preferred a new candidate in this district, which Republican mapmakers made into just a Biden +2 district as part of a new gerrymander, and it remains a Toss-up in our ratings. Over the weekend, Republicans also breathed a sigh of relief as another weak 2022 candidate, J.R. Majewski (R), dropped out of the race to challenge Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D, OH-9) in a Toledo-based district. This is one of just five Trump-won districts that House Democrats won in 2022. That district remains Leans Democratic in our ratings but Republicans should make a far more aggressive push for it this year.

— As of this writing, only a single House member lost a primary, and we knew that would happen going into the night, because two members were running against each other. In AL-1, a heavily GOP seat covering southern Alabama, Rep. Barry Moore narrowly beat Rep. Jerry Carl. Moore’s victory came despite being at a geographic disadvantage—the new district, altered because of a court order to draw a second Black majority seat in Alabama that is likely to elect a Democrat in November, contained about 60% of Carl’s old turf but just 40% of Moore’s. Moore, a Freedom Caucus Member, was in the enviable position (in a GOP primary) of running a bit more to the right. The result was somewhat similar to what happened in a member vs. member race in West Virginia last cycle, when the more ideological Rep. Alex Mooney beat former Rep. David McKinley in West Virginia’s redrawn 2nd District despite a geographic disadvantage.

— Speaking of Republicans facing challenges from the right, Rep. Tony Gonzales (R, TX-23) was forced into a runoff in his sprawling San Antonio-to-El Paso seat. Gonzales, who drew the ire of some in his party for backing a gun safety law following a deadly shooting in Uvalde in 2022 and for otherwise occasionally showing a moderate streak, will face Brandon Herrera, a gun rights activist, in the runoff; Gonzales led Herrera 45%-25% in the primary but needed to get to 50%.

— Elsewhere in Texas, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D, TX-18) appeared to be in primary trouble in a Houston seat after her mayoral loss late last year, but she beat former Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards (D) 60%-37%.

— Also in greater Houston, prominent Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R, TX-2) won his primary but with a little less than 60% against a challenger he beat much more comfortably in 2022. In northwest Arkansas, Rep. Steve Womack (R, AR-3) also won against a challenger from the right, but only by a 54%-46% margin based on reporting Wednesday morning.

— Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention a big political development on Tuesday that had nothing to do with Super Tuesday: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) announced that she would not seek a second term—arguably 2024’s most important remaining big candidate decision for the Senate, barring something unexpected down the line. Sinema, whose election as a Democrat was a significant moment in Arizona’s transition from red state to purple state, left the Democrats following the 2022 election, although she continued to caucus with them. Sinema, who upset the left during her term, may have lost a primary to Rep. Ruben Gallego (D, AZ-3), who is on track to be the Democratic nominee. Sinema is thus the second straight occupant of this seat, following Republican Jeff Flake, to serve just a single term and retire at least partially because of base problems (Flake probably would have lost a primary in 2018 had he run). Gallego is now set up for a general election against, most likely, 2022 gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake (R) in a race that remains a Toss-up. On balance, this is probably a good development for Gallego, although it’s not completely obvious how a three-person general election (including Sinema) would have worked out. Sinema almost certainly would have finished in third, which is probably why she’s not running now. The two most recent nonpartisan Arizona polls showed Sinema having different impacts on the race: A Noble Predictive Insights poll from last month showed Gallego leading Lake by 10 points in a head to head battle but only up 3 in a three-way race, so Gallego was clearly doing better without Sinema in the race. However, an Emerson College/The Hill/Nexstar poll, also from last month, showed Gallego up 7 in the two-way and 6 in the three-way, effectively the same-sized lead.