4 takeaways from Tuesday’s elections

Their nominations secure, Joe Biden and Donald Trump were left to read the tea leaves Tuesday as voters across the country cast primary ballots and, in one critical state, approved Republican-backed changes to election law.

Wisconsin was again in the spotlight, its status as a crucial 2024 presidential battleground meaning that every vote was not only counted but scrutinized for deeper meaning or some insight into what’s to come in November.

Outside the Midwest, a trio of Northeastern states – Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island – also went to the polls Tuesday and an official in Enid, Oklahoma – population: roughly 50,000 – accused of having ties to the White nationalist movement is going to be replaced as commissioner on the city council.

Here are takeaways from Tuesday’s elections:

A day after seven aid workers in a World Central Kitchen food convoy were killed in an Israeli military strike in Gaza, more than 45,000 Wisconsin Democratic primary voters checked “uninstructed delegation” on their ballots – another warning to Biden over progressive discontent with his handling of the months-old conflict.

Campaigners set a target of 20,000 before the polls opened, a low bar they quickly crossed as the counting got underway. But in an election of small margins, any stress on either candidate’s base is cause for concern.

Biden won Wisconsin by fewer than 21,000 votes in 2020. Four years earlier, Trump carried the state by nearly 23,000 votes. The rough accounting then suggests that if even half of Tuesday’s “uninstructed” coalition either sits out the general election or turns out for a third-party candidate, the race could be thrown into deeper flux.

Though Biden remains fundamentally strong with Democrats, the progressive protest votes are piling up alongside broader concerns over his standing in the Arab, Palestinian and Muslim American communities.

The latest sign of angst came later on Tuesday, when a Palestinian American doctor walked out of a meeting with Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and top foreign policy aides, after handing the president a letter from an orphaned 8-year-old Gazan girl begging Biden to “stop (the Israeli military) from entering Rafah,” where more than a million Palestinians, most of them displaced, are sheltering.

The meeting had initially been planned as an iftar dinner, to break the Ramadan fast, but was scrapped in favor of something more formal amid concerns from invited guests.

Republicans once again delivered a warning to Trump about party unity and their willingness to vote for him again in November.

Like he did in nearly every contest before becoming the presumptive nominee, Trump lapped the field in Wisconsin on Tuesday but still saw a significant number of holdout vote for erstwhile rivals Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis and Chris Christie.

With most of the votes counted, at around midnight ET, Trump was falling short of 80% support in the Wisconsin GOP primary. More than 70,000, or about 12%, voted for Haley, who dropped out of the race but remained on the ballot. DeSantis and “uninstructed” were combining for roughly 30,000 votes.

Added together, upward of 100,000 Badger State Republicans went to the polls Tuesday and checked a box for someone (or thing) other than Trump, a former president who has won the GOP nomination in three straight elections.

Trump’s team will shrug off the results – the candidate spent the day rallying supporters in Michigan and Wisconsin as he assailed Biden over his border policies and referred to undocumented perpetrators of violent crimes as “not humans” and “animals.”

Meanwhile, the Biden campaign is probably feeling good about its recent decision to cut a digital ad targeting Republican suburbanites in swing states.

“If you voted for Nikki Haley,” text in the ad says, “Donald Trump doesn’t want your vote.”

Voters in Wisconsin approved a pair of state constitutional amendments, championed by Trump-allied Republicans, that will change campaign and election rules ahead of November.

The first measure will ban the use of private funds to aid in the state’s administration of elections. The cause was first backed by Republicans who falsely claimed that donations from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, funded a shadow operation to help elect Biden in 2020. In the parlance of the conspiracy theorists, the funds are known as “Zuckerbucks.”

The less exciting truth was that the funds came as part of a grant from a Zuckerberg-funded group to help agencies and voters safely navigate the Covid-19 pandemic that year. Grant administrators have noted that any community that applied for the money received it.

More than two-dozen states now “prohibit, limit or regulate the use of private or philanthropic funding to run elections,” according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. All of the laws came in the aftermath of the 2020 election.

Both Wisconsin measures were passed by the GOP-controlled legislature but vetoed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. Republican lawmakers then pivoted to the ballot measure route.

The second measure stipulates that “only election officials designated by law” are allowed to perform election-related “tasks.” Republicans said they wanted to ensure that private consultants cannot engage in election administration.

The backlash to the deadly 2017 White nationalist gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia, reemerged in an unlikely place on Tuesday: Enid, Oklahoma.

Voters there are projected to recall city commissioner Judd Blevins over his participation in the infamous “Unite the Right” rally, which saw one counterprotester killed and dozens injured, and other connections to a now-defunct racist online forum.

Blevins, an Iraq War veteran who has admitted to taking part in the rally, said at a candidate forum last week that he is now “opposed to all forms of racial hate and racial discrimination.”

So why go? Blevins said he “felt it was important to protest the removal of statues of American soldiers.”

“It’s important to me,” he told voters. “It’s our history. It’s our heritage. It’s who we are.”

Asked about his comments on the racist online forum, Blevins was less apologetic, according to The Associated Press, saying he wanted to bring “attention to the same issues that got Donald Trump elected in 2016: securing America’s borders, reforming our legal immigration system and, quite frankly, pushing back on this anti-White hatred that is so common in media entertainment.”

Blevins’ past was known, to anyone who reads the local newspaper, before he was first elected in 2023. But activists with the Enid Social Justice Committee eventually got the recall vote on the ballot.

Cheryl Patterson, a longtime conservative, will take his place on the Enid City Council.

CNN’s Fredreka Schouten and Kate Sullivan contributed to this report.

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