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Trump clinches delegate majority for GOP presidential nomination, setting up Biden rematch

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Former US President and Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump arrives for a “Commit to Caucus” rally in Clinton, Iowa, on January 6, 2024. 

Tannen Maury | AFP | Getty Images

Former President Donald Trump has secured enough delegates to seal the Republican presidential nomination, NBC News projects, setting up a 2024 rematch with President Joe Biden, who clinched the Democratic nomination earlier Tuesday night.

Trump came into Tuesday’s contests in Georgia, Hawaii, Mississippi and Washington as the presumptive nominee after vanquishing all his primary opponents, while Biden faced little opposition in his primary. Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley ended her bid for the Republican nomination last week after winning just one state on Super Tuesday.

Trump’s projected victories Tuesday night pushed him over the 1,215 delegate mark — the “magic number” needed for a majority at the GOP’s July convention in Milwaukee. Those delegates will be bound by party rules to support him, even as he faces looming court cases in four separate indictments.

The general election starts with Biden seeing his favorability dip below 40% in a spate of recent polls, below Trump, who also remains unpopular. While Biden ran ahead of Trump in virtually every major poll in 2020, recent polls have shown the race virtually tied, or with Trump holding a slight edge, with voters raising concerns about Biden’s age and Trump’s legal woes.

While Biden ran virtually unopposed on the Democratic side, Trump steamrolled through a Republican primary that included a handful of prominent politicians. He won all but two contests (Vermont and Washington, D.C.) through Tuesday and retained his grip on the Republican primary electorate in the process.

Candidates who ran against him as vocal critics — such as former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and former Texas Rep. Will Hurd — couldn’t get traction. Those looking to brand themselves as Trump 2.0 — such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy — couldn’t break Trump’s hold on the party.

His former vice president, Mike Pence, found himself unable to get out of his shadow but also unable to appeal to Trump supporters, after his decision to defy Trump’s wishes and not move to block the certification of the 2020 election on Jan. 6, 2021.

And Haley, who eventually turned her campaign into a destination for the share of Republican voters who desperately want their party to change course away from Trump, saw her standing among Republican voters overall fall as she stepped up the anti-Trump rhetoric.

At times, it seemed like there were two GOP presidential primary contests playing out in parallel — one with Trump largely refusing to engage with the rest of the field as the heavy favorite, and another featuring the rest of the field scrambling for a distant second place.

Initially, some Republicans thought that Trump could be beat. DeSantis, a popular general in the GOP culture wars who in 2022 notched the largest victory in a Florida governor’s race since 1982, briefly led Trump in hypothetical one-on-one contests. DeSantis and his supporters believed that he could snatch support from the former president, particularly after Trump-backed candidates underperformed in the same 2022 midterms that DeSantis dominated.

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But DeSantis’ campaign stumbled out of the gate and never truly recovered his standing in the polls, in part due to early attacks from the Trump team aimed at preventing his rise. Questions about the campaign’s strategy and finances emerged just months into his bid, he replaced his campaign manager over the summer and his well-funded super PAC clashed both internally and with the campaign.

Haley’s campaign started off slow, but her stock steadily rose heading into this year. Capitalizing on that momentum, the Haley campaign waited until the fall to start spending big and she vaulted into the second tier of candidates, finishing just 2 percentage points behind DeSantis in Iowa.

Unable to garner momentum in Iowa, DeSantis suspended his campaign, elevating Haley into a one-on-one battle against Trump. But she continued to poll poorly with Republican voters, relying heavily on support from self-identified independents and Democrats in states that allowed them to participate in GOP nominating contests, a dynamic that vastly limited her ceiling even as she gave voice to many voters’ discontent with Trump.

All the while, the former president didn’t participate in a single GOP presidential debate. His campaign even called on the Republican National Committee to cancel the debates last fall.

Four indictments — over allegations ranging from making hush money payments to an adult film actress to mishandling of classified documents to efforts to overturn the 2020 election — and civil judgments for business fraud and defamation related to a rape allegation from an author did not prevent Trump from maintaining grip on the GOP primary electorate (and may have helped Republicans rally around him).

After his victories in Iowa and New Hampshire, then-RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel said on Fox News that she believed voters had sent a “clear” message that Trump would be the nominee, even though Haley was still an active candidate.

And despite those words, and her long history of supporting Trump, the former president called for McDaniel’s resignation as leader of the party shortly after. Trump’s preferred picks — former North Carolina GOP Chairman Michael Whatley and the former president’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump — took the reins of the RNC earlier this month as chair and co-chair, respectively, as Trump once again takes over as the Republican Party’s presidential nominee and its singular standard-bearer.

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