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Wednesday Briefing: Americans Vote on Super Tuesday

Millions of voters across 15 states are casting ballots on Super Tuesday, one of the most important dates on the U.S. political calendar.

It’s the day in the presidential primary cycle when the most states vote, and it will move the race closer to a White House rematch in November between President Biden and Donald Trump. It will also almost certainly be a blow to Nikki Haley, Trump’s Republican challenger.

Results will start coming soon after we send out this newsletter. Here’s the latest.

Trump is seeking to bounce Haley from the race. Recent polls in Texas and California — the states that will award the most delegates on Tuesday — show him with wide leads.

For Biden, who has no major opponents, observers are watching turnout and the popularity of the “uncommitted” ballot option as a protest vote in states like Minnesota.

While it’s hard to make reliable predictions about the general election based on primaries, my colleague Maggie Astor, who is covering the primary, said the contests would give us signs about the months ahead.

“Aspects of the Super Tuesday results — including how close Nikki Haley comes to Trump, how many people cast protest votes against Biden, and how high turnout is — could provide some indications of how united and enthusiastic the Democratic and Republican Parties are,” she said.

Background: The U.S. primary system can be difficult to understand, even for Americans. It’s not a direct vote. Instead, states award delegates — people who will vote on the party’s nominee during the summer conventions — based on primary results. To be the Republican nominee this year, for example, a candidate will need to win a majority of the 2,429 delegates. By the time Super Tuesday is over, 1,151 of the total will have been allocated.

Do Americans have “collective amnesia”? It’s been only three years, but memories of Trump’s presidency have faded and changed fast.

China’s top leaders announced an ambitious economic growth target of about 5 percent this year. It will be hard for them to pull it off.

China’s economy is battered by a property crisis, the loss of consumer confidence and financial pressures of indebted local governments. But Beijing didn’t announce major spending increases to aid local government, measures to revive the property market or moves to strengthen consumer confidence. With leaders short on action, economists and investors are skeptical.

“It’s an unsurprisingly unrealistic set of targets,” a China researcher said.

But there’s money for the military: Leaders plan to raise spending by 7.2 percent in 2024, reaching about $231 billion. (That’s the same percentage rise as last year, and it continues a decades-long expansion.) China also plans to increase spending for science and technology research by 10 percent.

The Ukraine war has been fought largely on the ground in the past two years, but as the Russian military presses on with attacks in the east, its air force has taken on a greater role. Military analysts say Russia has increasingly used warplanes near the front lines to drop powerful guided bombs on Ukrainian positions and to clear a path forward for the infantry.

The strategy has helped Russia make gains in eastern Ukraine, but has also given Kyiv’s military more chances to shoot down their planes.

China and India are crowding the Maldives with building projects. Their efforts — part of a broader competition for influence across South Asia — are shaking the newborn democracy as its politicians try to navigate between the two world powers.

Lives lived: Juli Lynne Charlot created the poodle skirt, which became popular in the 1950s. She died at 101.

Riken Yamamoto, a Japanese architect, creates understated buildings meant to inspire social connection and transparency. He just won the Pritzker Prize, architecture’s highest honor.

He has designed family homes without exterior walls, public buildings made of transparent glass and connected by terraces, and a fire station that allows those walking past to watch the firefighters train.

The Pritzker jury said his designs enabled “people to shape their own lives within his buildings with elegance, normality, poetry and joy.”

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