Mar 6, 2024

Special edition: Super Tuesday results.

Special edition: Super Tuesday results.
Photo by Mick Haupt / Unsplash

Nikki Haley dropped out and we got some clarity in major state races.

I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, nonpartisan, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum on the news of the day — then “my take.”

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Today's read: 11 minutes.

Biden and Trump cleaned up, Haley dropped out, and we've got lots of drama in North Carolina and California. Plus, a reader question about Ukraine funding.

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Quick hits.

  1. Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, the Democrat turned independent, announced she is retiring from the Senate. (The announcement)
  2. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) faces new charges for allegations that he was acting as a foreign agent of Egypt. (The charges
  3. Former President Donald Trump, whose campaign is low on cash, reportedly met with Elon Musk in an effort to solicit financial support. (The meeting
  4. The Biden administration is backing a bipartisan bill that would effectively ban the popular social media app TikTok if its Chinese holding company does not divest from it. (The bill
  5. In a step toward forming the first-ever labor union for college athletes, the Dartmouth men's basketball team voted to unionize yesterday. (The union)

Today's topic.

Super Tuesday. On Tuesday, 16 states and one U.S. territory held their presidential nominating contests. There were also a number of important races in California, North Carolina, Texas, Alabama and Arkansas, where voters were deciding the Republican and Democratic nominees for Senate races, gubernatorial races, and more.

The presidential primaries: On the Republican side, former President Donald Trump won every Super Tuesday state except Vermont, where former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley pulled off a surprising 50%-46% upset despite trailing by more than 30 points in some polls. Trump picked up hundreds of delegates and closed any potential path for Haley to mount a comeback; on Wednesday morning, Haley announced she was dropping out of the presidential race.

On the Democratic side, President Joe Biden also pulled off a near sweep, winning every race except in American Samoa, where a little-known entrepreneur named Jason Palmer defeated him 51-40 (total votes). Unlike states, the territory does not have electoral votes in the general election, but it will send six delegates to the nominating convention. As he did in Michigan, Biden faced an "uncommitted" vote protest in Minnesota, where more than 45,000 voters (or 19% of ballots) voted “uncommitted” to protest his handling of Israel's war in Gaza. "The goal right now is not to get people to vote against the Democrat; we just want the president to listen, and that's why this time right now — in early March — is crucial,” said one voter.

The California Senate race: Rep. Adam Schiff (D) will face Republican Steve Garvey, a former Major League Baseball all-star, in a statewide Senate race to fill the seat of the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D).

California uses a “jungle primary,” which puts all candidates, regardless of party, on the same primary ballot and advances the top two finishers to the general election. Reps. Adam Schiff (D), Katie Porter (D), and Barbara Lee (D) were the strongest Democratic contenders. Schiff took the risky move of elevating Garvey by buying ads tying him to Donald Trump, an effort to improve his standing with Republican voters so Schiff would not have to face another Democrat in the general election. It worked.

Now, Schiff heads into the general as the dominant favorite in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly two to one.

The North Carolina gubernatorial race: Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson and Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein clinched the nominations for their parties and will face off in North Carolina's race for governor this fall. They’ll both be vying to replace Gov. Roy Cooper (D).

The race was closely watched by Democratic strategists, who were hoping for a Robinson victory so they could campaign against him in races across the state. Robinson, a pastor from Greensboro, has been endorsed by Trump and has a chance to become the first black governor in North Carolina history. But he also has a track record for controversy: He's derided gay people as "filth" and "maggots," caught flak for quoting Hitler, and promised to abolish abortion rights — an issue Democrats are planning to make central to their 2024 campaign. 

North Carolina is a presidential battleground state in 2024, and with Robinson running for governor Democratic strategists think they have a better chance of pulling off the upset. 

The Texas Senate primary: Once again, Democrats are trying to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz (R) in Texas. This year, Rep. Colin Allred emerged from the Democratic primary to run in the 2024 Senate race, topping nine other Democrats in a crowded field. Allred was first elected to the House in 2018 after flipping a Dallas-area seat and has focused much of his early messaging on removing the state’s abortion ban. Former President Donald Trump won Texas by six points in 2020, and Cruz won re-election in 2018 by three points over then-Rep. Beto O’Rourke.

Notably, Allred has at times distanced himself from Biden, and has even sided with Republicans to criticize the president’s handling of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Other odds and ends:

  • Barry Moore defeated Jerry Carl in the Republican primary for Alabama's 1st Congressional district. Moore and Carl were both congressional incumbents but ended up in the same district after Alabama's map was redrawn.
  • Rep. Jeff Jackson (D-NC) won the Democratic primary for North Carolina's attorney general seat. Jackson, author of a popular Substack detailing life in Congress, was drawn into a less favorable district last year after the state redistricted, then decided to run for attorney general. Jackson will face Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC), a member of the House Freedom Caucus.
  • California Rep. David Valadao, one of just two House Republicans who is still in Congress after voting to impeach Donald Trump in the wake of January 6, is leading early returns in his “top-two” primary race, making it likely he appears on the ballot in the fall.
  • Longtime pastor Mark Harris (R) completed a political comeback five years after his dramatic loss in North Carolina. Harris had initially defeated Democrat Dan McCready in the 9th District, but his victory was thrown out because of ballot fraud, forcing one of the only congressional do-overs in U.S. history. Yesterday, Harris won the Republican primary for North Carolina’s deep-red 8th Congressional district, all but assuring he’ll be in Congress in 2024.
  • Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA), famous for her viral questioning of witnesses in Congress, vacated her seat in the House for an unsuccessful bid in the Senate. In the race to replace her, state Senator Dave Min (D) overcame funding from an outside group tied to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to win the Democratic primary and will face off with Republican Scott Baugh. The race is widely considered a toss-up.

Today, we’re going to take a look at some commentary about the results from the left and right, then my take.

What the left is saying.

  • The left is resigned to Trump’s dominance over the GOP but implores Haley supporters not to fall in line.  
  • Some focus on the California Senate race, noting the cynical nature of Schiff’s campaign strategy. 
  • Others are alarmed over Mark Robinson’s gubernatorial campaign in North Carolina.

In USA Today, Rex Huppke wrote “Nikki Haley and her voters still have a chance to be heroes. They need to vote for Biden.”

“Haley has fought on admirably, and may continue, but she’s going to lose to a cultish figure who has consumed the Republican Party and is bleeding it dry to help pay the legal costs that come with his multiple criminal indictments,” Huppke said. “That doesn’t mean Haley and her voters can’t still be heroes. They just need to vote, hard as it may be, for Joe Biden.”

“Haley has painted the former president, accurately and indisputably, as an agent of chaos,” Huppke added. “It’s clear from the substantial support she has received – upwards of 40% of the primary vote in some states – that Haley voters agree with her. So even when Trump wins the nomination, these voters have a chance to stand by their convictions and do their part to make sure he doesn’t win in the general election.”

In New York Magazine, Ed Kilgore wrote about the California Senate race and said “Schiff’s strategy worked.”

“It was a cynical strategy, but a predictable and a very successful one. Democratic congressman Adam Schiff, the early front-runner in California’s Top Two primary for Senate, had a large war chest of about $50 million. He invested a big chunk of it in boosting the candidacy of hapless but famous Republican Steve Garvey,” Kilgore said. “Schiff lent him a hand via the now-familiar tactic of saturation ads attacking Garvey as a staunch conservative and trusty ally of Donald Trump.

“This love-bombing was intended to consolidate a previously scattered Republican vote behind the former Dodgers and Padres star, and it worked like a charm,” Kilgore wrote. “Polls had shown that a Schiff-Porter general election might have been very close, and would have been a wildly expensive struggle to the very end between two champion fund-raisers. But thanks to California’s heavily Democratic tilt, and particularly in a polarizing presidential year, Schiff should dispatch Garvey handily.”

In Slate, Molly Olmstead called Mark Robinson “Super Tuesday’s breakout offensive candidate.”

Robinson “has the misfortune of having spent years on Facebook without thinking about his future political career. The current lieutenant governor of the state—and the first Black man to hold the position—was a furniture manufacturer who was launched into politics in 2018 when he gave a viral pro-gun speech at a city council meeting in the wake of the Parkland school shooting,” Olmstead said. “He has not, in the time since his profile rose, worked to purge his social media of controversial content. Nor has he played things safe when speaking at churches and other public events in recorded sermons and speeches. 

“So it doesn’t take a lot of probing to find how Robinson really feels about certain hot-button issues,” Olmstead wrote. “Robinson, who is also into conspiracy theories, has voiced enough offensive comments for a full accounting to be too unwieldy. But even a sampling of his views… showcases just what kind of candidate North Carolina Republicans just selected to be their standard-bearer this November.”

What the right is saying.

  • The right is heartened by Trump’s success but notes some troubling signals in his performance.
  • Some celebrate Katie Porter’s defeat in the California Senate race as a chance for the GOP to flip her open House seat. 
  • Others say the results in California show Democrats won’t abandon Biden as their nominee. 

In The Washington Examiner, Jeremiah Poff wrote “Super Tuesday lays bare the GOP’s class divide.”

“The most interesting story of the results is not that Trump won but rather where he did poorly and where Nikki Haley, his last remaining rival, showed a modicum of strength, and it happened to be in the more liberal regions of each state,” Poff said. “Such was the common theme of the few areas where Haley found support: liberal enclaves dominated by white voters with college degrees, often around major population centers.”

“There is no question Trump is going to be the nominee. But Haley’s pockets of support have laid bare a lingering class divide within the Republican Party, one that pits the party’s new working-class base against the old, more educated, ‘country club’ Republicans that dominated the party in prior decades,” Poff wrote. “This class divide is the only thing standing between Trump and an electoral landslide in the general election, even as he holds a consistent lead over President Joe Biden in most polls.”

In RedState, Joe Cunningham said “Katie Porter gave up a swing seat in Congress to lose to the establishment.”

“The bad news is that we will have to deal with Schiff being a smug and overconfident little man in the Senate, but he won't have the power he had in the House,” Cunningham wrote. “But Porter? She gave up her seat in the halls of Congress to run against, essentially, the California and national Democratic Establishment. Pelosi very much wanted her protege to win, and made sure he did so.”

Porter “never stood a chance. But her leaving means Republicans have a chance to pick up a swing seat in California. Keep in mind, victories in largely Democratic states like California and New York, rather than in the Deep South and Midwest, were what gave House Republicans a slim majority. With public polling looking like it is right now, there's every possibility that more California Democrats will be disappointed come November.”

In The American Conservative, Bradley Devlin explored “what we learned about Biden and Democrats in the CA Primary.”

“Biden also won the Democratic presidential primary in commanding fashion. His margin of victory, and the lack of an ‘uncommitted’ movement in one of the nation’s most progressive states, signals a California Democratic party in favor of the Biden Democrat mold despite constant speculation that the previously recalled Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom could replace Biden atop the Democratic ticket,” Devlin said. 

“Ditching Biden for Newsom was always a dubious prospect. Did anyone really think Newsom and his climate agenda would perform better than Biden in the states Democrats need to win—Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin—come November to hold the White House? California’s results, not only in the presidential primary, but in the Senate jungle primary, make nominee Newsom all the more unlikely.”

My take.

Reminder: "My take" is a section where I give myself space to share my own personal opinion. If you have feedback, criticism, or compliments, don't unsubscribe. Write in by replying to this email, or leave a comment.

  • Trump and Biden dominated and Haley dropped out, but those aren’t the most important stories.
  • Competitive races in North Carolina are going to gain a lot of attention and the state’s politics could become a major story in 2024.
  • I wouldn’t sleep on Texas, either, as the 2024 campaign season is about to kick into gear.

Every now and then, Tangle goes through these weird phases where we cover the same people or stories over and over again. The last week or two has been very Trump-centric and pretty light on policy-oriented issues, so I don't want to spend too much time on him again here. I'll say the same thing I said after the Michigan primaries: He is strong with his base, but there are blaring warning signs that he’s underperforming and is going to have issues in the general election.

None of that should be news. What is news is Haley officially dropping out, which she was right to do. It was clear her path to the nomination was never realistic, but now it’s almost mathematically impossible. She took her campaign as far as it could go, and I'm glad she gave Republican voters a legitimate alternative option — something that didn't happen on the Democratic side. I don't expect we've heard the last from her in this election, and I'll be curious to see what she does with her endorsement (if she gives one at all).

As for Biden, well, the "uncommitted" voters aren't going away. Challenger Dean Phillips (whom we interviewed) finally seems aware of the fact that there is no market for what he's offering. The 2020 rematch that nobody (yet everybody) seems to want is here. 

But the most interesting stories to me are happening outside of the presidential race. Democrats are now making a habit out of boosting Republican candidates to help their own electoral chances, a strategy Adam Schiff employed to box Reps. Katie Porter and Barbara Lee out of the general election. It is an audacious, dangerous move that is also apparently effective. An interesting subplot is that Democrats are now losing Porter, one of their star young politicians, from Congress altogether. If they lose the seat she vacated in the House, the circular firing squad will be complete.

And get ready to hear a lot more about North Carolina.

To me, that's the state that has the potential to become the story of 2024. For starters, it has been trending purple for years and appears to be a genuine battleground in this year’s presidential election. Remember: Trump barely won there in 2020, by 1.3% of the vote. It already has a Democratic governor, and Moody's Analytics suggests this is the year it could actually flip.

Things are really starting to break in Democrats' favor in the Tar Heel State. The issue of abortion is salient, and Democrats will make it a central issue there in 2024. Republicans have nominated a candidate for governor with some very fringe views, and you can bet every dollar you have that Biden's campaign is going to tie him to Trump as often as they can. That alone strikes me as enough to give them a fighter's chance. And with 16 electoral votes up for grabs (that's more than Michigan or Wisconsin), the money and the press is going to pour in. I expect it to be a very, very close race in 2024.

And, of course, there's always Texas, where Democrats are perpetually trying to get rid of Sen. Ted Cruz (R). Once again, I doubt they have the votes to do it this year. Allred seems like a good fundraiser and, like North Carolina, Texas has been getting a little purpler each year. But he’s still running headfirst into Biden's record on the southern border, an opponent with far more name recognition, and a conservative voting record in a state that is still decidedly red. 

With Super Tuesday now in the rearview, you can expect the general election politicking to kick into full gear. The 2024 campaign season has officially arrived.

Disagree? That's okay. My opinion is just one of many. Write in and let us know why, and we'll consider publishing your feedback.

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Your questions, answered.

Q: My understanding is that a large chunk of US funding to Ukraine comes from sending older military supplies and then using the money to modernise your own supplies? I've not seen this really discussed a lot of places and wonder if the American public would feel differently if it was better explained? I may be completely wrong too but if so please tell me!

— David from Australia

Tangle: Understanding how the money we’re allocating to Ukraine actually gets spent is not very intuitive, so I’m glad you asked. We answered a similar question about how the aid was structured in November, and we’ll work off that as a starting point. Here’s what we said then:

“The United States has allocated $113.4 billion in emergency funding for the war in Ukraine… By department, $61.8 billion of that aid is allocated through the Department of Defense, $36.5 billion through USAID (which is overseen by the State Department), $9.9 billion more broadly through the State Department, $3.4 through Health and Human Services, and $1.5 through other departments.”

The salient fact there is that the United States has allocated $61.8 billion in military aid for Ukraine. Of that, roughly $47 billion has already been sent. About $18 billion was sent through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (for training, equipment, and logistical support) and another $4.73 billion in monetary aid through grants or loans.

The remaining roughly $24 billion has been spent on “presidential drawdown authority,” or PDA, which is a power granted to the executive to immediately send allies weaponry from our defense stocks. The Department of Defense maintains a stockpile of weapons, and funding allocated to PDA is meant to “replenish DOD stocks that are to be transferred to Ukraine,” according to the Congressional Research Service

On one hand, it’s fair to say that a large chunk (about half of the two-thirds of our total aid that we’ve budgeted through the Defense Department) of Ukrainian support is spent on modernizing our own stockpile. On the other hand, we probably wouldn’t have spent our money on that regardless, and it’s not as if those weapons were horribly dated. Those billions still have to come from somewhere. 

But yes, I do think that understanding how PDA works provides helpful context, and I think it supports my personal belief that Ukrainian aid is defense budget well spent.

Want to have a question answered in the newsletter? You can reply to this email (it goes straight to my inbox) or fill out this form.

Under the radar.

Yesterday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) finalized a rule that will curb the penalties for late fees on credit card payments. The rule will reduce the maximum penalty for a late payment from $32 to $8, which the CFPB estimates will save consumers more than $10 billion in late fees annually. Prior to the rule, credit card companies had consistently increased late fees through a loophole in the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, with the average penalty for a late payment rising from $23 at the end of 2010 to $32 in 2022. The rule is expected to go into effect later this spring. CNBC has the story. 


  • 1,215. The number of delegates needed to win the Republican presidential nomination.
  • 1,053. The number of delegates won by Donald Trump as of this morning. 
  • 1,968. The number of delegates needed to win the Democratic presidential nomination.
  • 1,548. The number of delegates won by Joe Biden as of this morning. 
  • 31. The number of state primaries held on Super Tuesday.
  • 115. The number of House district primaries held on Super Tuesday. 
  • 15.7%. Nikki Haley’s final polling average in the GOP primary.

The extras.

Yesterday’s poll: 59% of the 755 Tangle readers who responded to our poll on the Supreme Court overruling Colorado supported the decision but disagreed with the Court’s argument. “The argument that no due process was followed to arrive at the conclusion there even was an insurrection, let alone that Trump was responsible, is a better position,” one respondent said.

What do you think was the most interesting storyline coming out of Super Tuesday? Let us know!

Have a nice day.

After returning from a routine stop at the local recycling center in Greenville, South Carolina, Melanie Harper discovered she had lost her wedding ring. Harper emailed the city’s public works department and asked them if they could keep an eye out for it, and while she went home unoptimistic, the public works employees upended the whole container in a parking lot and eventually were able to find and return the ring. Incredibly, this is not the first time public works employees have found a needle in a haystack, as workers in Corpus Christi, Texas, returned a precious ring lost in the trash to its owner last August. Good News Network has the story.

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Isaac Saul
I'm a politics reporter who grew up in Bucks County, PA — one of the most politically divided counties in America. I'm trying to fix the way we consume political news.