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It's Super Tuesday. Here's what to know

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Today is Super Tuesday, meaning that tonight we'll start to get results in nominating contests in more than a dozen states and one territory. And while the Republican presidential nomination race has been the center of attention for months now, there is a lot more to it going on tonight - something NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben knows all about. Hey, Danielle.

DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Let's start at the top of the ticket with the presidential contests. Biden is the incumbent. He doesn't have any major opposition. Trump is widely expected to, once again, have some big wins tonight. So what new information are we going to get tonight?

KURTZLEBEN: Well, let's start on the Democratic side there, where, yes, Biden is the incumbent. But there still will be votes to watch for, particularly uncommitted votes. We saw some of those in Michigan last week in their primary. Now, these are, again, protest votes regarding Gaza and the Biden administration's actions regarding the Israel-Hamas war. Minnesota has been one state where commentators, watchers have really been saying that there are - there could be a sizable number of votes there. One Democratic strategist I have talked to has said, no, the effort isn't as organized there as it was in Michigan, but it still could be sizable. Furthermore, uncommitted is on the ballot in a handful of other states, so we'll be watching those.

Now, on the Republican side, yes, Trump is expected to do well. Republicans just flat-out like him a lot. That's what we're learning. But we all also kind of knew that. But, of course, we'll be watching for how many people vote for former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. But one final point here - even if Trump and Biden both dominate, neither will secure the number of delegates needed to win the nomination tonight.

SHAPIRO: Let's talk about Haley because she has only won one contest in Washington, D.C., last weekend.

KURTZLEBEN: Right.

SHAPIRO: What's her path forward? Does she even have one?

KURTZLEBEN: I mean, in a word, it's unclear to bad for her. Yes, I mean, look. Tonight is important because she has long said she would stick this out to Super Tuesday. Well, Super Tuesday is here.

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

KURTZLEBEN: So this is the big inflection point for her. She has been making the case that there is a substantial portion of the GOP that just doesn't want Trump as president. So it will, as always, be instructive to see how many voters do vote for her even if she doesn't win a lot of contests or even any contest. But even if she overperforms tonight, you're right. You need wins and you need money to keep going in primaries. And one of Haley's big supporters, the Americans for Prosperity super PAC - they're associated with the Koch family. They recently announced they were going to stop spending on her. So it's not clear how long she can really keep going here.

SHAPIRO: Well, apart from the presidential race, this is a night that voters are going to start casting ballots for congressional primary races.

KURTZLEBEN: Right.

SHAPIRO: What's on your radar?

KURTZLEBEN: The big one that a lot of people are watching, California Senate. Representatives Katie Porter, Adam Schiff and Barbara Lee - they are all big names. They're all running, along with Steve Garvey, who is a former baseball player for the LA Dodgers. Now, this is a jungle primary. All of the candidates run against each other, and the top two go on to November. So we could end up with a Democrat running against a Democrat or a Democrat versus Garvey, in which case, in blue California, the Democrat who comes out on top could easily be the next California senator. But there are still some other high-profile races. But I want to highlight North Carolina. That's a state where abortion is motivating a lot of Democrats. They have a 12-week abortion ban there. So Democrats are really trying to win back the state legislature and the governorship. So we'll be watching for turnout and who they nominate.

SHAPIRO: I just learned the phrase jungle primary. Donald Trump's legal challenges have brought a lot of drama to this primary season, but the races themselves have so far been pretty unsurprising between Trump's wins and Biden's incumbency. So beyond Super Tuesday, what keeps things interesting in this race?

KURTZLEBEN: Sure. So in the next week, quite a few things. First of all, what happens with Nikki Haley? How does she talk about how she does tonight, and what does she do going forward? Second of all, No Labels is something to watch. That is a group that may be putting up a third-party candidate for president. They have their delegate meeting on Friday, so we will learn then what they plan to do going forward. Finally, Biden's State of the Union is happening this week. It's not a campaign event, but he'll be laying out the case for his presidency to the American people.

SHAPIRO: That is NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben. Thank you.

KURTZLEBEN: Yep. Thank you.

SHAPIRO: And you can follow tonight's results and get all our politics team's best insights online tonight. We'll have a live blog running at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.
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