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Trump, Biden storm towards rematch as Haley drops out

By AFP - Mar 06,2024 - Last updated at Mar 06,2024

This combination of photo created on Wednesday shows US President Joe Biden in Maryland, on January 30, 2024 and former US president and 2024 presidential candidate Donald Trump in Claremont, New Hampshire, on November 11, 2023 (AFP photo)

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump marched Wednesday towards a bitter rematch against President Joe Biden in November as his final Republican rival Nikki Haley thew in the towel after a thumping defeat in the "Super Tuesday" primaries.

Pointedly declining to endorse the man she has portrayed as chaotic and mentally incompetent, former UN ambassador Haley said Trump would have to earn the support of moderates who backed her longshot campaign.

Her withdrawal leaves America facing a battle for the White House between two elderly men that many voters say they don't want, with Trump brushing aside multiple criminal indictments and the scandal over his attempt to overthrow the 2020 election in his pursuit of a comeback.

"We must turn away from the darkness of hatred and division," the 52-year-old Haley said in Charleston in her home state of South Carolina.

About Trump, she said only that "I wish him well" as he seeks a return to the world's most powerful office.

She also lamented the US "retreat" on world issues including Ukraine, as Trump and his hard-right Republican allies block aid for Kyiv's fight against the Russian invasion.

Biden meanwhile swept his Democratic "Super Tuesday" primaries but he must now gear up for Thursday's State of the Union address, a defining moment as the unpopular 81-year-old seeks to allay voter concerns over his age, the economy and the war in Gaza.

Both men swiftly made their pitch for Haley's bloc of mainly affluent, moderate Republican voters.

After proclaiming that he had "TROUNCED" Haley, Trump invited them to "join the greatest movement in the history of our nation." Biden hailed her courage for telling the "truth about Trump" and said there was a place for her supporters in his campaign.


 'So conclusive' 


This year's Super Tuesday was sapped of suspense as Biden and Trump had effectively secured their parties' nominations before a ballot was cast.

Former president Trump, 77, swept 14 out of 15 states up for grabs on the biggest day of the 2024 race so far, with Haley denying him only in the north-eastern state of Vermont.

“They call it ‘Super Tuesday’ for a reason,” Trump told cheering supporters at his Mar-a-Lago beach club in Florida. “They tell me, the pundits and otherwise, that there has never been one like this, never been anything so conclusive.”

Impeached twice, beaten by seven million votes in 2020 and facing 91 felony charges in four trials, Trump has a profile unlike any US presidential election candidate in history.

Yet his appeal among working-class, rural and white voters on issues like immigration and the economy has propelled him toward the nomination in one of the most lopsided primary seasons ever seen.

“This means the campaign will continue to be Trump’s tour of personal grievance,” Todd Belt, a politics professor at George Washington University, told AFP

He also finally received the backing of Senate Republican Minority leader Mitch McConnell, who had fallen out with Trump over his baseless claims to have won the 2020 election.


 Warning signs 


Biden meanwhile raced to clear wins — minus a loss in tiny Pacific Ocean territory American Samoa — and warned that Trump was “determined to destroy” US democracy.

Biden is now expected to use his State of the Union speech in less than 48 hours to paint the election as a stark choice between himself and an existential threat to the country.

But while the election is set to be a rematch, recent polls give Trump a narrow lead, unlike four years ago when Biden was largely ahead of the vote.

There are also warning signs from a protest vote over Biden’s support for Israel’s offensive on Gaza, with some voters filling out ballots saying “uncommitted” in Minnesota and other states.

Red lights are flashing for Trump too despite his dominant Super Tuesday performance, with signs that traditional voters in key swing states could be turned off by the chaos and scandal swirling around him.

Stephanie Perini-Hegarty voted for Biden in Quincy, Massachusetts.

“I think we need a leader who is not involved in any corruption, and who is going to look out for the best interests of the people,” the 55-year-old told AFP.


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