IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Super Tuesday's silver lining for Trump: The Democratic race is far from over

Analysis: The night delivered some worrisome signs for the president's fall hopes — but at least one potential boon: the potential for extended Democratic division.
Get more newsLiveon

Heading into the Super Tuesday Democratic primary contests, President Donald Trump professed nonchalance about the outcome. "I don't care who wins," he told reporters at the White House, downplaying the impact of results that could affect his re-election fortunes.

The hours that followed did bring bad news for the president: A leading potential competitor, Joe Biden, proved his strength Tuesday night among key groups of voters needed to win the general election, with the former vice president claiming solid support from black and suburban voters.

But the night also delivered some good news for him and his team: the reality that the Democratic contest appears far from over, with Bernie Sanders' progressive wing showing no signs of coalescing behind the establishment pick — meaning weeks, if not months, of potential party infighting.

Trump's advisers have long said their best-case scenario wasn't the emergence of one particular candidate but rather a drawn-out Democratic nominating process that would divide the party. With Sanders and Biden now in a clear two-man race, that scenario seemed likely.

"The results only increase the likelihood that no candidate will have enough delegates for a first ballot victory at their convention, which only means more chaos!" Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement.

As the results rolled in Tuesday night, Trump mocked former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg's underwhelming performance.

"$700 million washed down the drain, and he got nothing for it but the nickname Mini Mike, and the complete destruction of his reputation," Trump tweeted of Bloomberg.

Trump also noted the poor performance of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who at one point seemed to be the party favorite but didn't even win her home state, Massachusetts.

"Elizabeth 'Pocahontas' Warren, other than Mini Mike, was the loser of the night. She didn't even come close to winning her home state of Massachusetts," Trump tweeted. "Well, now she can just sit back with her husband and have a nice cold beer!"

He spent less time early in the night on the pair of candidates he's most likely to face in the fall.

Trump's advisers never assumed Biden was a lock for the nomination, but they have acknowledged that on paper he has consistently posed one of the biggest potential threats to the president's re-election, leading Trump in numerous head-to-head polls in key swing states and by an average of 5.4 percentage points nationally, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average.

Trump's campaign has been honing several lines of attack for Biden in recent months, focusing on his mental fitness and his ethics.

The president has been latching on to Biden's gaffes and stumbles to make voters question his fitness to be president; early Wednesday, he retweeted a clip of Biden at his Super Tuesday remarks appearing to momentarily introduce his wife as his sister.

Trump started laying the ground for ethics attacks on Biden shortly after the former vice president officially entered the race — getting impeached for doing so after asking the president of Ukraine to investigate the business dealings of Biden's son Hunter.

The campaign and allied groups are expected to revive the attacks on the younger Biden and to begin focusing on the business dealings of the former vice president's brother Jim Biden, along with Biden's own foundation, in hope of characterizing him as a product of the Washington swamp, according to a person familiar with the plans.

Trump previewed what attacks on a revived Biden campaign are likely to look like at a rally Monday night in North Carolina, highlighting some of Biden's verbal flubs, such as referring to the Super Tuesday contest as "super Thursday," appearing to accidentally say he was running for the Senate and wildly overstating the number of recent gun deaths.

Trump has said several times in recent weeks that if Biden were elected president he'd soon be put in a nursing home and that "crazy liberals" would be the ones actually running the country.

A Biden candidacy offers fewer wild cards for Trump than a contest with Sanders, campaign advisers have said. Against Biden, the campaign expects the electoral map to look much as it did in 2016, with the Rust Belt states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — Biden's home state — up for grabs and with suburban women and turnout levels for black voters able to tip the scales.

Download the NBC News app for breaking news and politics

While none of those states voted Tuesday, several other swing states weighed in, with voters showing strong support for Biden. In Virginia, for example, voter turnout was almost twice as high as in 2016, driven mostly by the Washington suburbs, where Biden got 53 percent of the vote.

Biden also showed commanding support from black voters Tuesday. The Trump campaign has been hoping to pick up some support among that group — or at least depress turnout to hang on to states like Michigan, where a decline in black voters last cycle compared to 2012 was viewed as a significant factor in Hillary Clinton's loss.

But Trump's campaign has also been hopeful that it could see a repeat of 2016 when it comes to Sanders supporters who were turned off by the party's nominating process and failed to get behind Clinton. More than 1 in 10 Sanders supporters voted for Trump in 2016, and about 7 percent voted for a third-party candidate, according to exit polls.

Trump and his campaign have again been trying to stoke that division, repeatedly claiming that the party establishment is trying to steal the nomination from Sanders. That continued amid Tuesday's results, with Trump retweeting a link to a February Fox News story that said high-ranking Democrats were looking for ways to blunt Sanders' momentum.

"I think there's no question the establishment, the Democrat establishment, is trying to take it away from Bernie Sanders," Trump told reporters earlier in the day as voters headed to the polls. "There's no question about that in my mind."