A version of this article was first published in the On the Trail 2024 newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox on Tuesday and Friday mornings here. To submit a question to next week’s Friday Mailbag, email onthetrail@deseretnews.com.

Good morning, friends. Wishing a happy Super Tuesday to all who celebrate, and especially those who will vote. By the end of the night, we’ll have a pretty good sense whether the 2024 primary elections are over — and whether we’re headed toward the longest, and perhaps ugliest, general election in U.S. history.

But today, we celebrate the primary that still is. To life.

3 things to know

  • Nikki Haley’s last stand: I spent the past week trailing Haley through Utah, North Carolina, Virginia, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. I learned that her most avid supporters don’t necessarily think she can win — but they are “happy warriors” nonetheless. Read my report here.
  • SCOTUS sides with Trump: The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that former President Donald Trump can’t be disqualified from 2024 ballots over his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, after Colorado and Maine attempted to bar him. More here.
  • DeSantis’ return? Republicans want Ron DeSantis as Trump’s running mate, a new Deseret News/HarrisX poll shows. The next top choices are Vivek Ramaswamy and Nikki Haley. More here.

The big idea

Calendar reminder: Go vote today

If you’re reading this, there’s a decent chance your state is holding elections today. Super Tuesday is the biggest single day for voting until November’s Election Day, where 15 states (and American Samoa) will hold party primary elections or caucus meetings. My home state, Utah, will hold Republican caucuses and a Democratic primary.

I spend a lot of time in this newsletter offering a window into the candidates, debates and ideas driving the 2024 election. I want to do something different today. I’d like to focus on you, the voter, and make a brief case for participating in today’s primary elections, if you live in a Super Tuesday state. (If you live in the two dozen other states that will vote in the coming weeks, this applies to you, too. And if you’ve already voted, great job — see you on Friday!).

First thing: a reminder that voting in a presidential election is a privilege. As the Supreme Court ruled in 2000′s Bush v. Gore case, “The individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States” unless state legislatures decide that statewide elections will decide how those electors are allocated. Thankfully, this is how states operate — but it is not a Constitutional guarantee.

A voter’s constitutional rights are even more limited in primary elections. In primaries, the manner by which voting occurs is the jurisdiction of the political parties (and, in many cases, state law). If the parties so choose, they could hold a state-administered primary election. They could hold “presidential preference polls” at caucus meetings, like Utah Republicans will do today. They could have delegates vote at a state party convention. If state law allowed, they could hypothetically cancel the primary elections altogether (as several states attempted in 2020).

For many, this is a hair-pull-inducing reality: that the presidential candidates we get in November are often selected through a discombobulated process in the winter and spring. I’ve written about this extensively — here in Utah, one former governor has aired his complaints about the caucus system and how “unfair” it is that Iowa, New Hampshire and other states go first. And the decision to hold a caucus in Utah, instead of a primary, has caused mass confusion, aided by a massive text prank, orchestrated by a disillusioned Republican, that told voters that the election was “canceled.”

There is room for voters to be frustrated. Two-thirds of U.S. voters don’t want a Biden-Trump rematch. Only 4% say our current political system is working well.

And yet, the best way — albeit a fraught, imperfect, even improbable way — for voters to get other options in November is to vote now. “Don’t complain about what happens in a general election,” Haley told the Deseret News editorial board last week, “if you don’t vote in a primary election.”

She has a point. Progressives that are frustrated with Biden in Michigan and elsewhere have voted “uncommitted,” a clear message that the Biden campaign admitted it “received.” In some states, other Democrats — like Dean Phillips and Marianne Williamson — are on the ballot. Many Republicans who want to move beyond Trump are casting votes for Haley, giving her a win in the Washington, D.C., primary Sunday. Just as voters who support Biden are voting for Biden, and voters who like Trump are backing Trump.

But, you might say, we need a dose of reality: Barring some cataclysmic event, it’s increasingly likely that November will be a Biden-Trump rematch. What about voters — a big portion, no doubt — who don’t want that, but also don’t like any of their primary challengers? What about those who, disillusioned by the primary process, wish there were more candidates still in the race? What about unaffiliated voters — now a majority in the U.S. — who aren’t registered Republicans or Democrats?

The decision, as always, goes back to the voter. A discussion of how we got here — the party structures and primary mechanisms — can wait for another day. Instead, some practicalities: Many states allow unregistered voters to participate in either party’s primary, or allow same-day party registration. If you decide to vote, I appreciate this counsel the local leaders of my faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sent last week: “Members should also study candidates carefully and vote for those who have demonstrated integrity, ability, and service to others, regardless of party affiliation.”

It’s hard to complain about the choices in November if you choose not to vote now.

Happy Super Tuesday!

What I’m reading

A New York Times poll is making waves. It shows Trump with a big lead, thanks to Biden’s unpopularity: “Mr. Biden is very unpopular,” wrote pollster Nate Cohn. “He’s so unpopular that he’s now even less popular than Mr. Trump, who remains every bit as unpopular as he was four years ago.” The Big Change Between the 2020 and 2024 Races: Biden Is Unpopular (Nate Cohn, The New York Times)

Political scientist Seth Masket set out last year to predict the 2024 GOP primary. His idea: periodically survey GOP county chairs across the country and see if they backed Trump, DeSantis or another candidate. He figured they would influence the voters in their area and give a good sense of the on-the-ground sentiment. But Masket found that the opposite was true: county chairs were largely skeptical of Trump, but they’ve since followed their county members back into the fold. “It’s a reflection of the state of the GOP that has existed since 2016,” Masket wrote, when he “snatched the nomination away from the establishment.” The Surprising Takeaway From My Survey on How Trump Got a Grip on the GOP Grassroots (Seth Masket, Politico)

One last thing — a reminder to follow our new On the Trail 2024 Instagram account.

Have a question for the next Friday mailbag? Drop me a line at onthetrail@deseretnews.com.

See you on the trail.

Editor’s Note: The Deseret News is committed to covering issues of substance in the 2024 presidential race from its unique perspective and editorial values. Our team of political reporters will bring you in-depth coverage of the most relevant news and information to help you make an informed decision. Find our complete coverage of the election here.