Eyad Abu Shakra

What Have the Super Tuesday Battles Taught Us About the Race to the White House?

Have the Super Tuesday results presented us with any new insights?

In terms of the detailed results that commentators and analysts enjoy noting, most of them did not defy expectations... But they are worth mentioning nonetheless. However, that is not the case for a deep reading of a battle whose political scene and whose images have been being "developed" for some time.

On Super Tuesday (March 5th), primary elections and caucuses were held in 15 states, as well as the American Samoa archipelago in the Pacific Ocean - a "self-governing territory" inhabited by about 45,000 people - and it was the last day that Democrats in Iowa could send mail-in ballots.

In terms of the results, the Democratic President Joe Biden and his Republican rival, former President Donald Trump, both won overwhelming victories in the elections and caucuses through which the delegates who vote in the national Democratic and Republican national conventions are elected. Each party officially announces its candidate for the upcoming presidential battle scheduled for early November, meaning that neither party has an obvious alternative to Biden or Trump!

Biden did not face any real competition, sweeping every state that was in play, although voters in American Samoa surprisingly gave a worthless victory to an obscure candidate. Trump also achieved an emphatic victory, winning the race in every state except the small state of Vermont, which voted for his rival, Nikki Haley.

Thus, Biden tightened his grip on the Democratic nomination, but concerns about disgruntled Democrats who voted "uncommitted" in swing states like Michigan and Minnesota remain. The reason for their protest, as we now well know, is that many Muslim, Arab, and leftist Democrats are opposed to the Biden administration's unequivocal support for the displacement war in Gaza... and its refusal to impose a ceasefire.

As for the Republicans, although Haley - the former governor of South Carolina and United Nations ambassador - broke the "consensus" around Trump within the Republican camp, her defiant stance was weak, and it came too late, forcing her to withdraw from the race after the dust settled, as many had expected.

In terms of the number of delegates that each candidate will send to his party’s national convention, Biden was not faced with any noteworthy challenge. As for Trump's majority, it seems overwhelming; he has practically ensured that he will win. The former president has now amassed, after Super Tuesday, approximately 893 delegates, 92 percent of the 1,215 delegates required for his party's nomination. On the other hand, Haley could only count on the support of 66 delegates when she suspended her campaign.

Despite these results, analysts see "obstacles" in both men’s paths. These include obvious and less apparent obstacles, even before delving into the other risks each of them faces - health and cognitive-capacity issues for Biden... and legal issues for Trump, who is defending himself in four criminal trials.

One of the obstacles that could harm the Democratic campaign is the number of "uncommitted" voters, which could undermine Biden's chances. Losing these voters - who amount to 12 percent of Democratic primary voters in some states - would pose a significant threat if their opposition to Biden persists until the closely contested elections in November, particularly since they are concentrated in pivotal states... which are home to large Arab and Muslim minorities and disgruntled radical groups.

Here, observers might argue that Biden could still save himself, but only if he makes adjustments - even nominal adjustments - to his approach to the Palestinian question, capitalizes on Trump's even more robust support of Israel and its war on Palestinians, and his disgruntled opponents’ enthusiasm waning over the coming months.

Moreover, Biden's advisers are convinced that Trump's Middle East policies - particularly his hostility to the Palestinian cause - do not promise the "uncommitted" voters an acceptable alternative that is more aligned with their goals. Additionally, since Biden is the sitting president, he still has more room to maneuver in his dealings with the relevant Arab states, and he could recalibrate his positions to "soften" the current discontent through appeasement and carefully crafted deals.

On the Republican side, Donald Trump has to contend with an array of sentiments and considerations.

One advantage Trump undoubtedly enjoys is that he understands his audience. He is now convinced that the more he indulges with populist attacks and defiance, the more he ramps up his rhetoric, and the harsher his positions, the more he stands to gain in a polarized public arena ready to follow him to the end, regardless of obstacles.

In my opinion, this is where Trump's strength lies: notions like democracy, the rule of law, constitutional principles, and broad national consensus mean nothing to him. They are at the bottom of his list of priorities, as he is a relentless narcissist who sees himself as being above accountability and scrutiny... Rather, he cannot do any wrong or lose, ever.

However, on the other hand, Nikki Haley's "protest" campaign, which it was, has proven that some of Trump's strengths are also weaknesses in many Republican circles. Despite the crazed loyalty of certain segments and groups (the less educated, Christian fundamentalists, anti-immigrants, and rural white voters), Trump enjoys significantly less support among other segments of the electorate (the educated, urban suburbanites, and young voters). This was particularly evident in the key states of Virginia and North Carolina.

Even more worryingly for Trump, between 30 and 40 percent of Haley voters in those states believe that he would be ineligible if convicted. In fact, only 21 percent of her voters in North Carolina said they would vote Republican regardless of the candidate.

In conclusion, we are now facing a rematch. Doubts about who will contest the race are diminishing, but the "conclusion" has yet to be written!