Super Tuesday could solidify a November matchup that leaves some Minnesota voters cringing

Published 9:10 pm Monday, March 4, 2024

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By Mark Zdechlik, Minnesota Public Radio News

Super Tuesday could put the country closer to a White House rematch dreaded even by some voters active in Minnesota political parties.

The voting in Minnesota and more than a dozen other states is likely to leave President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump on the verge of their party nominations. It’s the biggest single-day delegate haul of the primary season.

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Trump has won nearly every GOP nomination contest thus far. Biden has swept the contests on his side. That’s the case despite the fact both are viewed negatively by a majority of voters.

Last week, 20-year-old T.J. Ringer talked about his concerns surrounding this year’s presidential race as he waited for an appearance by Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley in Bloomington.

“It’s definitely frustrating, especially as a young voter because I’m just not obviously satisfied with either candidate, assuming it’s Trump and Biden,” Ringer said. “It’s not like I’m going to be excited to go vote for one of those two.”

Ringer predicts many people will stay home this fall given the choice of candidates.

“A lot of people my age — younger voters — I feel like they’ll maybe sit it out which I don’t think is good but when you have two candidates who aren’t really popular,” he said. “I think a lot of people will.”

Polls show a lot of voters aren’t satisfied with the economy under Biden and they worry about giving four more years to someone who is 81 now. When it comes to Trump, his legal troubles, rhetoric many find divisive and his threats to exact revenge against political rivals have turned off voters.

In Biden’s case, there is an unusual ballot threat. An active push is on to get people to mark “uncommitted” on Democratic ballots in Minnesota and elsewhere to protest the Biden administration’s stance toward the Israel-Hamas war and the toll it has taken on Gaza.

‘Existential choice’

DFL Party Chair Ken Martin said Biden’s administration is working to address those concerns. He said the incumbent has a solid record to run on. As for polls that consistently show many Americans would rather have different options in November, Martin said this matchup offers a clear contrast.

“Whether they want it or not, that’s likely what’s going to happen. Now it’s an existential choice between these two candidates,” Martin said. “Both have served one term as president. Both of them have records to talk about. It’s very clear one has a record of accomplishment and one has four years of wasted time in the presidency that was marked by chaos and dysfunction and hate.”

GOP Chair David Hann said it will be a contested race in Minnesota if Trump is atop the ticket despite his losses here in 2016 and 2020. Hann said voter enthusiasm won’t be a problem because of discontent with Biden’s term, particularly when it comes to inflation and immigration.

“Minnesota will be a race that people will be paying attention to,” Hann said. “This is a very, very close electorate if the presumed candidates are President Biden and former President Trump.”

On her way into a DFL caucus site in Bloomington last week, Candesse Hadsall said she thinks presidential politics have been too personality driven.

Hadsall, who is in her 70s, said she wishes voters would focus more on what each party would do with the presidency rather than Biden or Trump’s candidacies.

“I hear all these young people that I work with a lot who think that it’s the people when it’s actually the issues and not just one issue but multiple,” she said. “So people really need to look deeply into what the concerns are and the issues and then decide.”

Nick Decker was also attending a precinct caucus at Kennedy High School in Bloomington. He’s backing Biden but is concerned about the future of the Democratic Party.

“I think he’s in danger of losing the base of his own party by not listening to the grassroots side,” Decker said. “I think that there’s a lot of interest in moderates.”

Wanting moderates

Cheryl Oliva, who was on her way into a Republican caucus site in Bloomington, said she also is troubled by the Republican and Democratic front-runners.

“I would love to see someone more moderate to be honest with you,” she said. “I know I’m standing here today going into a Republican caucus. I would say that I am more socially liberal and fiscally conservative.”

Minnesota Democratic U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips has been trying to appeal to moderate voters, but hasn’t made much of a dent in primaries so far.

Still Phillips remains in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Phillips is on the ballot in more than a dozen Super Tuesday states, including Minnesota.

Secretary of State Steve Simon says most of the people who asked for absentee presidential primary ballots did not return them. As of earlier Monday, about 89,000 had been returned and marked accepted out of the 208,000 ballots sent out.

He says that’s typical of primary elections where the candidate fields have been shrinking since ballot rosters were set. Simon also says primary election turnout is not a reliable indicator of general election interest.

“We’ve seen years for example in recent history in Minnesota where primary turnout has been very low,” Simon said. “And yet we ended up having sky-high, number-one-in-the-nation turnout in the general election.”