Biden and Trump triumph in super Tuesday rematch amidst voter apprehensions

In a contentious rematch for the 2024 US presidential election, President Joe Biden and Republican frontrunner Donald Trump secured significant victories on Super Tuesday. Despite Wall Street donors’ attempts to avert the face-off, both candidates demonstrated dominance in key states. GOP challenger Nikki Haley only managed a token victory in Vermont. The electorate, though witnessing strong performances, harbours deep reservations. Democrats fear Biden’s age may affect his leadership, while Trump faces legal challenges and divisive rhetoric, leaving many Americans with concerns about the upcoming election.

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By Justin Sink, Jordan Fabian and Nancy Cook

President Joe Biden and Republican frontrunner Donald Trump are set for a rematch in a general election race that few Americans are excited about and that Wall Street donors tried in vain to avert.

Both Biden and Trump prevailed or led in nearly every Super Tuesday nominating contest as of 11:30 p.m., with early declared victories in Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee demonstrating their respective holds over their political parties.

GOP challenger Nikki Haley managed only a token victory in Vermont — a deeply liberal state Republicans haven’t carried in 36 years — despite backing from billionaires including Stan Druckenmiller and Charles Koch. 

And a viable alternative to Biden never emerged: Primary opponent Dean Phillips didn’t stand a chance, no matter how many times investor Bill Ackman said he did.

Yet the dominant performances by both Biden and Trump disguise deep anxiety and reservations among the electorate. 

For Democrats, the choice of Biden is a risky gamble that voters in November will put aside their concerns about the ability of an 81-year-old man to continue to lead the free world, particularly at a time when foreign wars are raging and economic angst persists despite a strong post-pandemic recovery. 

On the Republican side, Trump’s myriad legal woes, inflammatory statements about minorities and immigrants and what his critics say are his authoritarian plans for a second term threaten to alienate moderate voters key to recapturing the White House.

Trump’s political efforts must compete for his time, resources, and attention as he mounts a defense against 91 criminal charges in four separate cases. He is just four years younger than Biden, but recently has made verbal stumbles on the campaign trail that are making it somewhat harder to strike a contrast with the president on the question of whether they are too old to effectively do the job.

Trump, casting himself as a de facto incumbent despite losing in 2020, consolidated GOP support following his indictments, with the party’s drift toward populism leaving little room for Haley to get traction. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Trump’s other main challenger, stumbled before he even started.

Democrats rallied around Biden, with no big-name politicians willing to challenge a sitting president even as party figures whispered fears about his age.

Divergent Approaches

In foreign capitals, the prospect of a rematch between the two men has already sown disbelief that the US refuses to move on to a new generation of leaders, and leaves bureaucrats to gird for two wildly divergent approaches to diplomacy, economics, and governance.

The vision of a second Trump term is clear: substantial new trade protections, a sharp crackdown on immigration, lower taxes, an isolationist foreign policy bent, and a campaign of retribution targeting progressives, federal bureaucracy and a news media he blames for alienating his base against the ruling class.

Former US President Donald Trump

An extension of Biden’s presidency would guarantee the implementation of his first-term legislative achievements aimed at reviving domestic manufacturing, improving infrastructure, and battling climate change. Biden would also aim to raise taxes on the wealthy and strengthen foreign alliances, though his subdued, technocratic approach has done little to inspire the electorate. 

In remarks Tuesday night to supporters, Trump cast the stakes of the match-up with Biden as existential. 

“We’re going to win this election because we have to win,” Trump said. “If we lose the election we’re not going to have a country left.”

Age Worries

Polls suggest age worries are a major obstacle to a second Biden term. Eight in 10 swing-state voters said Biden was too old in a Bloomberg News/Morning Consult poll released in February. 

That poll also found that a majority of respondents said Trump was dangerous. Biden’s team sought to underscore those perceptions Tuesday night. “He is driven by grievance and grift, focused on his own revenge and retribution, not the American people,” Biden said in a statement released by his campaign. “He’ll do or say anything to put himself in power.”

And yet Trump he has remained popular with GOP primary voters of all ages, genders and races, including working-class and college-educated Republicans, according to exit polling from early states. 

While Trump’s team has dominated the early voting contests, it also moved to lock up support in more subtle ways. Trump will essentially take over the Republican National Committee on Friday, when party members are scheduled to vote on two hand-picked allies to lead the party for the remainder of 2024. That will allow his campaign to work more closely with the party committee and hire more staff, Trump senior adviser Chris LaCivita told reporters on Tuesday. 

Biden too faces the task of unifying his party. Progressives upset with the president’s support for Israel’s war on Hamas have in recent weeks urged voters to choose “uncommitted” on their primary ballot in order to pressure Biden to change his stance. 

In Minnesota, which has a large Muslim population, 20% voted “uncommitted” on Tuesday, with 75% reporting. That comes after 13% of Democratic presidential primary voters in the swing state of Michigan did the same last week.

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