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Trump, Biden win Texas primaries

By Pooja Salhotra, The Texas Tribune

Trump, Biden win Texas primaries” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump won their Texas primaries on Tuesday, propelling them closer to a rematch in the November presidential election.

Both men easily carried the state, the AP declared shortly after the last polls closed in Texas at 8 p.m. Central Time. Biden faced no viable challengers in the Democratic primary. And Trump defeated his last challenger, Nikki Haley. Haley suspended her campaign Wednesday morning after losing primaries across the country on Tuesday.

Trump’s victory in Texas was not always a foregone conclusion. After the 2022 midterms, Republicans blamed Trump for significant losses, and many prominent state leaders were hesitant to endorse the former president, who also faced mounting legal problems. A November 2022 poll showed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis leading Trump.

But Trump actively sought early support from the Texas congressional delegation. Meanwhile, DeSantis failed to live up to expectations and enthusiasm over his candidacy dwindled. As Trump’s nomination appeared increasingly inevitable, state leaders rallied around him; Gov. Greg Abbott offered Trump an endorsement last November during a trip to the Texas-Mexico border.

Endorsements from U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn followed in January. Once he dropped out, DeSantis backed Trump, too. That left Haley as Trump’s only viable opponent, and he polled ahead of her by more than 60 percentage points in January.

Haley, the former U.N. ambassador who also previously served as South Carolina governor, faced an uphill battle in Texas after losing all previous GOP primary contests except Washington, D.C. She made one final stop in Texas on Monday, holding rallies in Fort Worth and Spring, where she told voters she is the Republican best positioned to defeat Biden. She zeroed in on Texas because voters can pick which party primary to vote in regardless of partisan affiliation. That means Democrats and other non-Republicans could choose to vote in the GOP primary and vice versa.

But Haley was unable to convince many Democrats to cross party lines. Only about 3.9% of votes cast early in the Republican primary were from people who had most recently voted in a Democratic primary prior to 2024, according to analysis by political consultant Derek Ryan. That number is not significantly different from the rate of crossover voting in 2020 and 2022, Ryan said.

Trump cleared another potential roadblock to reelection this week when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that states can’t kick him off of the ballot because of his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. The ruling overturned a Colorado Supreme Court decision that ruled that Trump couldn’t return to office under the Constitution’s 14th amendment.

Biden and Trump’s victories come five days after they visited two different Texas border towns on the same day, casting the migrant crisis as an urgent issue in the presidential election. Biden, who visited Brownsville, urged Congress to approve a bipartisan immigration bill that failed in the Senate after Trump told Republicans not to vote for it — in part to prevent Biden from scoring a political victory.

The former president, meanwhile, was joined by Abbott in Eagle Pass, where Trump criticized Biden’s handling of the southern border and praised Abbott for his efforts to arrest migrants who cross the border illegally. Trump later said that Abbott was on his shortlist of potential vice presidential candidates, though Abbott said he is committed to remaining in Texas.

Trump has vowed to expand his crack-down on illegal immigration if he returns to office. His plans include “the largest domestic deportation operation in American history” as well as bans on entry from certain Muslim-majority countries and a policy that would refuse asylum claims. He has also promised to end birthright citizenship of unauthorized immigrants.

The 2024 primary season will continue into June. The nominee will be formally chosen at the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee from July 15 to 18 and the Democratic National Convention in Chicago from August 19 to 22.

Texas has among the largest number of delegates nationwide, making it a significant electoral prize for the two frontrunners vying for their party nomination. The state has 161 Republican and 273 Democratic delegates.

Many Texans who voted on Tuesday said they lacked enthusiasm for the presidential candidates.

But Henry Tynes, a voter in Lufkin, said he was a staunch supporter of Trump and that he would vote for any candidate the former president endorsed. Trump backed several Texas House primary candidates trying to oust those who voted to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton.

“The former president did a lot, even with constant backlash,” Tynes said. “They won’t leave him alone, they didn’t leave him alone, they’re not leaving him alone, and they’re just that way because he was a billionaire.”

Also in Lufkin Democrat Oscar Dixon said he planned to vote for Biden, even though he disagreed with some of the president’s policies. Dixon said he considers the situation at the Texas-Mexico border a “humanitarian” crisis and that it should be treated as such.

“I don’t agree with a lot of things that Biden was doing, but Biden was helping the poor people,” he said, referring to Biden’s immigration policies.

— Jess Huff contributed.

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