With President Joe Biden’s recent announcement of his intention to seek re-election and Donald Trump’s domination of Republican primary polling, the stage is set for a rematch of the 2020 election. This is true even though polling shows that it is most emphatically not what voters outside the two parties want.
Let’s face it. As the sitting president, Biden was always likely to run for re-election and a sitting president is almost totally assured of winning his party’s primary. Although our current primary system is relatively new, no incumbent president has ever lost a primary. We have to go back to Andrew Johnson in 1868 to find a president who sought nomination for re-election and did not get it.
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A similar argument applies to Donald Trump. Although Trump lost his re-election bid in 2020, many (if not most) Republicans still don’t understand that Biden won a free and fair election. Trump’s stolen election claims, although thoroughly debunked, have prevented the party from moving on.
Republicans are optimistic about Biden’s low approval ratings, currently at an average of 42 percent, and the fact that 70 percent of Americans believe that Biden should not run again per a new NBC News poll. What these Republicans miss is that Trump’s favorability is about 34 percent, per the same poll, and 60 percent say that Trump should not run again.
Personally, I think that Biden and Trump will face each other again. I’ve said for a long time that this is the most likely outcome. A large share of the Republican Party is still stuck on Trump despite the elites’ attempts to sell Ron DeSantis to the masses. The Florida governor just isn’t catching on and I don’t think he will.
I won’t say that Trump can’t win in 2024. After 2016, I”m not going to make any categorical statements about The Former Guy being unelectable.
I do think a Trump victory would be very unlikely, however. Trump has alienated so much of the country and his own party that it would be extremely difficult for him to repeat the fluke that sent him to the White House in 2016. America knows Trump and, outside the Republican Party, it doesn’t like him.
I can think of scenarios where it could happen though. An economic collapse might persuade independent voters to try Trump again. Biden might suffer a health crisis that leaves him unable to campaign, similar to Hillary in 2016. Or repeating Hillary’s problems, new scandals might emerge. There might be a mass psychosis that causes Americans to get on the Trump Train en masse.
But what I see as far more likely is that Biden will repeat his 2020 strategy of campaigning from the basement under the premise that it’s better to have Trump putting his foot in his mouth on the campaign trail than Biden putting his foot in his mouth on the campaign trail. Donald Trump is physically incapable of not saying anything offensive or stupid for long periods. Biden’s best campaign strategy will be to keep the spotlight on Trump and ask voters, “Do you really want another four years of this?”
The job will be much harder for Trump. Not only does he have to win over independents and some Democrats, he has to win over a significant faction of his own party. A new NPR/Marist poll found that 27 percent of Republicans do not want Trump to be president again. How do you win without the support of a quarter of your own party?
I’ve told the story before about my parents and other Trump voters from 2020 who swore that they would never vote for Trump again. It remains to be seen how many of these Republicans will stick to their guns in a Biden-Trump rematch, but I know quite a few who say they will. With razor-thin margins in battleground states, Trump can’t afford to lose these voters.
My outlook for the 2024 is that Trump gets thumped. I don’t think it will be close this time. After all, as I’ve stressed before, people know Trump and they loathe him. He will be a weaker candidate than down-ballot Republicans and Joe Biden will go back to the White House with more of a mandate than in 2020.
Although Republicans could definitely do better than Trump (or DeSantis), I’m not sure that Democrats could do better than Biden. Back in February, I considered Democratic alternatives to Biden and didn’t find anyone who was likely to keep the progressive, moderate, and minority factions together as well as the president. The party would probably be wise to stick with a proven candidate who has actually governed fairly conservatively.
Biden vs. Trump Part II “Electric Boogaloo” (my contract stipulates that anytime I say “part II” I must reference the title of the best sequel name ever) may not be the matchup that we wanted, but it is increasingly likely that it will be matchup that we get. I hesitate to say that it’s the matchup that we deserve. I hope we haven’t been that bad as a nation.
My most fervent hope is that America will deal yet another electoral loss to Trumpism and that Republicans will move past the MAGA populism that has dealt a string of electoral defeats. For now, however, they seem stuck on stupid.
IRAN HACKED ELECTION SITES IN 2020: The government revealed that Iranian hackers broke into a US city’s election website in 2020. The hackers had access to parts of the site that displayed election results but not vote tallies themselves before US military cyber forces regained control. Look for more of this in 2024.
HARRY AND LOUISE REDUX: Erick Erickson has a good idea for anti-Trump ads that aren’t in-your-face.