Trump dominates Super Tuesday but faces warning signs in battle against Biden

Former President Donald Trump is on the fast track to the GOP nomination after former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, his sole primary challenger, suspended her campaign one day after Super Tuesday.

Yet warning signs from the post-Tuesday bump could still hinder Trump in his rematch general election fight against President Joe Biden.

Most concerning is the former president’s ability to appeal to Haley voters put off by his brash attitude and 91 criminal indictments across four cases, along with the swing voters in a handful of battleground states who will determine control of the White House post-2024.

Haley, whose campaign heavily relied on independent voters and right-of-center Republicans, directly addressed Trump’s vulnerabilities in her concession speech without offering an endorsement.

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“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 said. “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.”

The former president narrowly lost Vermont, home to centrist Republicans, by 4 percentage points to Haley. Nearly four hours after polls closed at 7 p.m. Eastern time, the Associated Press called the race for Haley, who won 49.9% of the vote compared to Trump’s 45.9%, with 99% of votes counted.

Exit polling from NBC News on Tuesday showed Trump will have to work much harder to convince weary voters to support him again in November. Nearly a third of voters in Virginia (31%), North Carolina (34%), and California (33%) answered “no” when asked if they would vote for the GOP nominee regardless of who it is.

When asked if Trump would be fit to be president if he were convicted of a crime, 37% of voters in Virginia said “no,” 31% of North Carolina voters said “no,” and 23% of California voters said “no.”

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a Super Tuesday election night party on Tuesday, March 5, 2024, at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

The exit poll results are in line with previous polling that showed a felony conviction for Trump could be fatal to his third presidential campaign.

An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll last month showed Biden would beat Trump by 6 percentage points, 51% to 45%, among registered voters if the former president were convicted. Nearly 1 in 10 of Republicans said they would support Biden if Trump were convicted.

It remains unclear whether Trump will be convicted before the election.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan vacated the March 4 trial date over Trump’s alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election. The Supreme Court also announced it was taking up Trump’s claims he has immunity from criminal prosecution. The high court will hear arguments the week of April 22.

Trump did little to help the narrative that he can appeal to independents, centrist Republicans, and Democrats unwilling to support Biden after Haley’s exit from the 2024 race.

“Nikki Haley got TROUNCED last night, in record setting fashion, despite the fact that Democrats, for reasons unknown, are allowed to vote in Vermont, and various other Republican Primaries,” Trump boasted on Truth Social shortly after Haley started speaking.

“Much of her money came from Radical Left Democrats, as did many of her voters, almost 50%, according to the polls,” Trump continued, veering into attacks against voters who could help him defeat Biden. “At this point, I hope she stays in the ‘race’ and fights it out until the end! 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.”

Trump is on track to win the 1,215 delegates needed to reach the threshold of presumptive GOP nominee by mid-March. He has garnered 1,004, while Haley trailed far behind at 89.

Yet Biden’s campaign and his fellow Democrats have already begun to slam Trump over his alleged inability to appeal to Haley’s supporters.

“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,” Biden said in a statement after Haley dropped out. “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.”

“In the twilight of her campaign, as it became clear that Donald Trump’s MAGA base was sticking with the original, Nikki Haley began to call out Trump as the dangerous, pathetic loser he is,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison said in a statement on Wednesday. “Trump has made it clear that he does not want Nikki Haley’s supporters — and her supporters know Trump failed the American people and that he would go even further to rip away our rights and tear down our democracy if given the chance.”

Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist based in Florida, brushed off concerns about Trump’s appeal to Haley supporters.

“You always want to make sure that you get all the voters who can vote for you,” O’Connell said. “But when we look at these six battleground states that are going to decide this election, and you look at the Haley voters, you’re essentially seeing folks that were either Democrats or Trump haters, who are pretty much never going to be changed.”

Six key swing states — Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Nevada — are set to determine the fate of the White House in November. In 2020, Biden won all six states, blocking Trump from a second presidential term.

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O’Connell stressed that voters viewed Trump more favorably than Biden regarding the economy, immigration, and foreign policy. The GOP strategist claimed that Haley would eventually endorse Trump.

“If she wants a future in Republican politics going forward, she will eventually do it,” he said. “If she doesn’t endorse him, I don’t think it’s going to change the calculus of it. But the idea is to present a unified front. We’re going to find out whether or not Nikki Haley is a team player.”

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