April 17th, 2024

Biden and Trump notch more wins Tuesday as primary voters urge them to keep up the fight

By Michelle L. Price, Jonathan J. Cooper And Patrick Orsagos, The Associated Press on March 19, 2024.

TEMPE, Arizona (AP) – As Joe Biden and Donald Trump moved closer to a November rematch, primary voters around the country on Tuesday urged their favored candidate to keep up the fight and worried about what might happen if their side loses this fall.

There was little suspense about Tuesday’s results as both candidates are already their parties’ presumptive nominees. Trump easily won Republican primaries in Florida, Illinois, Kansas and Ohio. Biden did the same except in Florida, where Democrats had canceled their primary and opted to award all 224 of their delegates to Biden. They were expected to sweep Arizona’s primaries as well.

Instead, the primaries and key downballot races became a reflection of the national political mood. With many Americans unenthusiastic about 2024’s choice for the White House, both Biden and Trump’s campaigns are working to fire up their bases by tearing into each other and warning of the perils of the opponent.

Those who did turn out to vote Tuesday seemed to hear that.

Pat Shackleford, an 84-year-old caregiver in Mesa, Arizona, said she voted for Trump in Arizona’s primary to send the former president a message.

“I wanted to encourage him that the fight has been worthwhile, that more of us are behind him than maybe the media tells you,” Shackleford said.

Jamie and Cassandra Neal, sisters who both live in Phoenix, said they were unenthusiastic Biden supporters until they saw the vigor the president brought to his State of the Union speech. It fired them up for the coming election.

“Beforehand it was like, “˜Well, he’s the only decent one there,'” said Cassandra Neal, 42. “After his address it was like, “˜OK, let’s do it!'”

Jamie Neal, 45, said Biden had been “way too nice” before and needed to match Trump, whom she described as “vicious.”

“I hate to say it, sometimes you need to equal the lowness to get the person out,” she said. “Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire.”

In Ohio’s Republican Senate primary, Trump-backed businessman Bernie Moreno defeated two challengers, Ohio Secretary of State Frank Frank LaRose and Matt Dolan, whose family owns the Cleveland Guardians baseball team.

Moreno and Trump appeared together Saturday at a rally where Trump praised his endorsed candidate as a “warrior” and ramped up his dark rhetoric, saying that were he not to be elected, “it’s going to be a bloodbath for the country.” His campaign insists he was referring to the auto industry and not the country as a whole.

In the final days of the campaign, The Associated Press reported on Thursday that in 2008, someone with access to Moreno’s work email account created a profile on an adult website seeking “Men for 1-on-1 sex.” The AP could not definitively confirm that it was created by Moreno himself. Moreno’s lawyer said a former intern created the account and provided a statement from the intern, Dan Ricci, who said he created the account as “part of a juvenile prank.”

Questions about the profile have circulated in GOP circles for the past month, sparking frustration among senior Republican operatives about Moreno’s potential vulnerability in a general election, according to seven people who are directly familiar with conversations about how to address the matter. They requested anonymity to avoid running afoul of Trump and his allies.

Elsewhere, Chicago voters were deciding whether to assess a one-time real estate tax to pay for new homeless services. And voters in California were moving toward deciding a replacement for former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who resigned his seat after being pushed out of Republican leadership.

Trump and Biden have for weeks been focused on the general election, aiming their campaigns lately on states that could be competitive in November rather than merely those holding primaries.

Trump, a Florida voter, cast his ballot at a recreation center in Palm Beach on Tuesday and told reporters, “I voted for Donald Trump.”

Trump and Biden are running on their records in office and casting the other as a threat to America. Trump, 77, portrays the 81-year-old Biden as mentally unfit. The president has described his Republican rival as a threat to democracy after his attempt to overturn the 2020 election results and his praise of foreign strongmen.

Those themes were evident Tuesday at some polling locations.

“President Biden, I don’t think he knows how to tie his shoes anymore,” said Trump supporter Linda Bennet, a resident of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, not far from the former president’s Mar-a-Lago resort.

Even as she echoed Trump’s arguments about Biden, she criticized Trump’s rhetoric and “the way he composes himself” as “not presidential at all.” But she said the former president is “a man of his word,” and she said the country, especially the economy, felt stronger to her under Trump’s leadership.

In Columbus, Ohio, Democrat Brenda Woodfolk voted for Biden and shared the president’s framing of the choice this fall.

“It’s scary,” she said of the prospect that Trump could be in the Oval Office again. “Trump wants to be a dictator, talking about making America white again and all this kind of crap. There’s too much hate going on.”

Bennet and Woodfolk agreed that immigration in one of their top concerns, though they offered different takes on why.

“This border thing is out of control,” said Bennet, the Republican voter. “I think it’s the government’s plot or plan to bring these people in to change the whole dynamic for their benefit, so I’m pretty peeved.”

Woodfolk, the Democrat, said she doesn’t mind immigrants “sharing” opportunities in the U.S. but worried it comes at the expense of “people who’ve been here all their lives.”

Trump and Republicans have hammered Biden on the influx of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years, seeking to capitalize on the issue well beyond border states. Biden has ratcheted up a counteroffensive in recent weeks after Senate Republicans killed a migration compromise they had negotiated with the White House, withholding their support only after Trump said he opposed the deal. Biden has used the circumstances to argue that Trump and Republicans have no interest in solving the issue but instead want to inflame voters in an election year.

For the last year, Trump has coupled his campaign with his legal challenges, including dozens of criminal counts and civil cases in which he faces more than $500 million in fines.

His first criminal trial was scheduled to start Monday in New York on allegations he falsified business records to cover up hush money payments. But a judge delayed the trial for 30 days after the recent disclosure of new evidence that Trump’s lawyers said they needed time to review.

Speaking outside his polling place with a voter’s sticker affixed to his lapel, Trump insisted the cases against him were political and defended himself against criticism of his attacks a day earlier on Jewish Democrats, in which he alleged they hate Israel and their own religion. Democratic leaders on Tuesday criticized his comments as promoting antisemitic tropes about having divided loyalties.

Standing next to him was former first lady Melania Trump, who didn’t have on a sticker. She has rarely appeared in public with Trump since he launched his third bid for the White House.

Asked if she would campaign with him, she replied. “Stay tuned.”

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Price reported from New York and Orsagos from Columbus, Ohio. Associated Press videojournalist Cody Jackson in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, and Associated Press writers Bill Barrow in Atlanta, Jill Colvin in New York and Brian Slodysko in Washington contributed to this report.

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