5 things to watch on Super Tuesday

Voters will head to the polls in more than a dozen states and American Samoa on Tuesday to weigh in on their preferred pick for president and a slew of Senate and House primaries. 

Although President Biden isn’t facing a formidable primary rival, advocates in several states are looking to get Democratic voters to stage a protest vote of “uncommitted” on the ballot over the Biden administration’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war.  

Meanwhile, former President Trump is barreling toward the Republican nomination against rival Nikki Haley.  

A handful of states are also holding contested primaries for competitive congressional seats.  

Here are five things to watch on Super Tuesday:  

Will Trump lock up the nomination? 

Trump is on track to win the GOP nomination, though he won’t be coronated Tuesday night. 

The former president has more than 240 delegates while Haley has 43, and more than 850 delegates will be up for grabs Tuesday.  

Because Trump needs 1,215 delegates of the 2,429 available to get the GOP nod, he won’t be able to clinch the Republican contest yet, but he’s expected to get much closer to that goal after the Super Tuesday primaries. 

One major development aiding Trump is a last-minute Supreme Court ruling on Monday that said the former president could appear on the GOP ballot in Colorado. That also impacts Maine and Illinois, where his presence on the ballot was also contested.  

So far, Haley has won only the Washington, D.C., primary, underscoring the uphill battle she faces.

The states that will vote in the GOP primary are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Virginia.  

Do protest votes make an impact in the Democratic primary? 

Advocates angry with the Biden administration over its handling of the Israel-Hamas war made their message loud and clear in Michigan last week, when 13 percent of those who participated in the Democratic primary cast their ballot for “uncommitted.” 

Democrats furious with the president over the war are now threatening to withhold support from him in more primary contests.

Democrats in several states, including Washington and Minnesota, are urging members of their party to cast an “uncommitted” vote for Biden, while some states are also seeing an “Abandon Biden” movement that could threaten to derail the president in November.  

The Biden administration has been involved in efforts to negotiate a cease-fire between the two sides, and The Associated Press reported that a senior U.S. administration official said Israel has accepted a six-week cease-fire. The framework still awaits a decision from Hamas.  

Meanwhile, Vice President Harris called for a cease-fire while in Selma, Ala., on Sunday to remember “Bloody Sunday.”

Can Porter pull off an upset in California? 

Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), long seen as a rising star in her party, is fighting to make it into the California Senate runoff in November. 

Most polls have largely found Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) in first place, while Porter and Republican Steve Garvey have hovered around second place. Numbers gathered by Political Data Intelligence (PDI) have shown sluggish early voting, with only 12 percent of ballots returned as of Monday. 

Lower turnout tends to favor whiter and older voters — the kinds of voters Schiff and Garvey stand to perform better with. Thirty-nine percent of voters aged 50 and older had cast a ballot, according to PDI data as of Monday, compared to 10 percent of voters aged 18 to 49.  

Sixteen percent of white voters had cast a ballot, compared to 11 percent of Asian voters, 10 percent of African American voters and 6 percent of Latino voters.  

Because California uses a “top two” primary system, all candidates running for the same office are listed under one ballot regardless of party affiliation, and the top two finishers move on to the November election.  

Schiff’s campaign and a super PAC supporting him have been emphasizing Garvey in their ads to make it more likely that Schiff will compete against Garvey in November. Meanwhile, Porter’s campaign has been elevating Republican long shot Eric Early in her advertising to siphon votes away from Garvey and give her a better shot at making it into second place.  

How do Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s endorsees fare? 

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) is out for blood after the Texas state House voted to impeach him in May.

Although he was acquitted by the state Senate, that hasn’t stopped Paxton from taking on Republicans who voted to oust him. 

Among Paxton’s targets is Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R), who oversaw the impeachment trial into Paxton and voted to impeach him. Trump has also waded into the Texas GOP primaries, backing Republican challengers to the Republican incumbents who voted to impeach Paxton. 

Some of those state House candidates include Republicans Liz Case in the 71st District, Mike Olcott in the 60th District, Helen Kerwin in the 58th District and Alan Schoolcraft in the 44th. 

What does turnout look like? 

While the presidential primaries might be sleepier affairs, California, Texas and North Carolina are among the states holding key contested primaries. But early voting turnout in those three states shows lower voter turnout. 

Compared to 2020, however, slightly higher numbers of Republicans in Texas are voting this cycle, though overall early voting is down in the state, according to The Texas Tribune.

Part of that low turnout has to do with the trajectory of the presidential horse race, where Trump and Biden are inching closer to a rematch this fall and as both men suffer underwater approval ratings.  

Low turnout, however, skews the kinds of voters that come out to the polls, which could impact competitive races like the California Senate primary.  

The low turnout on Tuesday may also offer warning signs for both parties heading into November.

2024 Election

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