The future of both parties will be defined on Super Tuesday — but not by the presidential contest

The future of both parties will be defined on Super Tuesday — but not by the presidential contest

We’re finally here! Super Tuesday, the March Madness of presidential primaries. Except in this case, we know that Donald Trump and Joe Biden – the respective number one seeds in their parties – will win the whole thing. Tonight, 15 states, and American Samoa, will hold their primaries.

Despite Nikki Haley’s insistence that she is in the race to win it, she will face an avalanche of closed-primary states such as California and Oklahoma and states with heavy Maga contingents like Texas, Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas. On the Democratic side, while some states have “uncommitted” on their ballot, don’t expect as high numbers as Michigan saw as a protest against Joe Biden’s support for Israel.

Regardless of how November turns out, the 2024 campaign will almost certainly be the final campaign for Trump, 77, and Biden, 81. Both men have made their marks on their parties: Biden as a Senator for 36 years, a vice president and now president; while Trump harnessed the power of white grievance about immigration to take over the Republican Party and in turn made it more attractive to non-college-educated voters white and non-white alike.

But either way, both men will soon exit the political arena and elected officials in their parties will either stay on the trail they blazed or move in a different direction. These are the three major races to watch on Super Tuesday that could dictate the future of the Republican and Democratic Parties.

North Carolina gubernatorial election

Democrats have long hoped to win back North Carolina ever since Barack Obama became the first Democratic presidential nominee since Jimmy Carter in 1976 to win the state. Since then, North Carolina has always remained just out of reach for Democrats. Despite this, in 2016, Democratic attorney general Roy Cooper beat incumbent governor Pat McCory to win the governorship after McCrory signed legislation that banned transgender people from using the bathroom aligned with their gender, which led to boycotts from Bruce Springsteen to the NCAA, which is almost sacrosanct in the state that produced Michael Jordan.

Cooper, a white Democrat, would win re-election in 2020, the same year Mark Robinson, a Black Republican with a history of making antisemitic, homophobic and racist remarks, became lieutenant governor.

Robinson has since become a favourite of Trump, making him the presumptive nominee. With Cooper termed out, the race for governor could have an effect on the top of the ticket. Conversely, Josh Stein, North Carolina attorney general and a Democrat, is the likely Democratic nominee for governor. But in a sign of how much the state’s changed, while Cooper hailed from a white working-class area of the state, Stein hails from the suburbs of Raleigh.

If Robinson is too radioactive for North Carolina, it might drag Trump on the ticket or even boost Biden. Incidentally, Vice President Kamala Harris has campaigned heavily in North Carolina, including in the state’s HBCUs. For more on the Tar Heel state, read my colleague Ariana Baio’s breakdown.

Texas’s Democratic primary

Few Republican senators enrage Democrats – and to be honest, some Republicans – as much as Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. In 2018, former congressman Beto O’Rourke got within single digits of the man Trump once called “Lyin’ Ted.” Since then, Texas has become purpler, specifically the suburbs of Houston, where Cruz lives, becoming more Democratic, and Democrats flipping two House seats the same year as the 2018 Senate race.

Cruz has also made himself a lightning rod on the national stage, given his leading the charge to object to the 2020 presidential election results and his hightailing it to Mexico during a storm in 2021. Given Florida’s continued drift rightward, Democrats see Texas as their main longshot attempt to keep the Senate and flip a seat when they are otherwise playing defence.

Texas Democrats mainly have two choices in who they can pick to run against Cruz. On one end, much of the Democratic establishment endorsed Colin Allred, a former NFL linebacker who flipped a seat in the suburbs of Dallas in 2018. Allred’s attempt to form a blockade on January 6 to protect his colleagues from rioters offers a potent contrast to Cruz’s attempts to subvert the election results.

Going with a Democrat who represents the suburbs also shows that Democrats see that as their future to winning the Lone Star State. Conversely, state senator Roland Gutierrez came to national prominence after the shooting in Uvalde, which is in his heavily Hispanic home district. In 2020, Democrats’ hopes of flipping Texas crumbled amid a total collapse in the Hispanic areas including in the Rio Grande Valley. Gutierrez’s victory would signal Democrats want to go all-in with Hispanics.

California’s Senate race

The race to replace the late Senator Dianne Feinstein will inevitably produce a Democrat who is less conciliatory to Republicans than Feinstein.

As The Independent’s Katie Hawkinson broke down, Adam Schiff has become the frontrunner for the Senate race given his time as the lead impeachment manager for Trump’s first impeachment trial and his time atop the House Intelligence Committee before Kevin McCarthy kicked him off. Former House speaker Nancy Pelosi and much of Democratic leadership lined up behind Schiff, as has much of the state’s Latino power players given his years representing the Los Angeles area.

But many progressives see Schiff as too moderate given his opposition to a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas and his previous vote for the war in Iraq.

The progressive vote is currently split between Representative Katie Porter – who, like Allred, flipped a suburban district in formerly archconservative Orange County – and Representative Barbara Lee, a stalwart left-wing Democrat who was the only member of Congress to vote against the use of force in Afghanistan after 9/11.

The split vote almost guarantees that Schiff will face former San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers player and Republican candidate Steve Garvey. Given the chances of a Republican majority in the Senate and a Trump presidency, the Golden State’s choice of a senator will determine what kind of approach it wants to take against the GOP.