Biden – Trump rerun with a majority of Americans preferring other candidates

  • 2024-02-13
  • Kestutis Girnius is associate professor of the Department of Political Philosophy and History of Ideas of Vilnius University Institute of International Relation and Political Science

Barring some unforeseen developments, the US presidential elections next year will be a repeat of the face-off between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, both of whom do not face serious challenges in their parties’ primaries. More surprising is the fact that Trump seems to have a slight edge over Biden despite the fact that he faces 91 felony counts in four criminal cases. A Times/Siena College battleground polls conducted in early November in six swing states that are likely to decide the election – Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – showed Trump beating Biden by an average of 48 to 44 percent and leading in all the states except Neveda. Moreover, Mr. Biden’s multiracial base shows signs of fraying. He leads by only a single percentage point among voters under 30, who supported him overwhelmingly in 2020, while his lead among Hispanic voters is down to single digits. Even blacks are less supportive of Biden. The voters in battleground states said they trusted Trump more than Biden on the economy, foreign policy and immigration, issues that will be ardently discussed during the election campaign. Other recent polls have indicated that the president is in trouble, one showing that 76 percent of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong. According to another poll, a majority of potential Democratic primary voters (54 percent) now say they would like to see “another Democrat” challenge Biden for their party’s 2024 nomination

    Voters consistently state that the economy and inflation are their main concerns, even though GDP growth and employment percentages in the US have surpassed that of most developed countries, puzzling Biden supporters eager to tout the virtues of “Bidenomics.” But in an unequal America most of rewards accrue to the wealthy. During the Biden presidency inflation has outpaced wage growth, leaving those in need struggling to pay their bills. Perceptions of whether they are better or worse off financially are often decisive in determining how one votes.

    Immigration is a two-edged sword. Trump continues to call for a sharp crackdown on illegal migrants, deporting many and building a wall between Mexico and the US. His vituperative rhetoric will increase as the campaign heats up, alienating some of the Latinos and blacks who have gravitated toward the Republican party. Trump’s opposition to continued aid for Ukraine will find favor with those who believe that the government prioritize the needs of its own citizens. Biden’s unequivocal backing of Israel could also cause problems, as 75 percent of Democrats and most young people support the ceasefire that Biden opposes.

    Yet Biden’s biggest drawback is his age, he is already 81 years old. About three-quarters of Americans, including two-thirds of Democrats, consider Biden too old for the office, lacking the physical and particularly the mental acuity that the office demands. Trump is 77 but seems more vigorous, while his rambling, repetitive and unfocused way of talking help disguise his stumbles.

    A year is a long time. Hard-core Trump supporters believe that his manifold indictments are part of a deep-state conspiracy to prevent his reelection. Many other voters do not consider that the indictments disqualify him for the presidency. But conviction for multiple felonies could well be more consequential, convincing independents, already deeply dissatisfied with the Republican party’s stance on abortions, to vote against Trump. On the other hand, a serious fall by Biden or a number of incidents in which he appears confused or lost could doom the president’s quest for a second term.

    The Democratic Party has failed to emphasize issues that find favor with many Americans and which Biden supports, for example legislation that would reduce the cost of prescription drugs, spend more on infrastructure, increase gun safety and fight climate change. Greater emphasis on such issues rather than “Bideconomics” or extensive aid to Ukraine and Israel could help alter the perception of the president’s accomplishments. This could strengthen his support among voters under 30 without whose firm support he is unlikely to be re-elected.

    Senator Joe Manchin has announced that he will not seek re-election next year but "absolutely" would consider running for president in 2024. Were he to run either as an independent or a candidate with the "No Labels" group, he could draw votes from Biden.

    It is a sad commentary on the state of US politics that the candidates of both major parties are old, vain and selfish men manifestly unfit for carrying out the onerous duties of the US presidency. A majority of Americans would prefer other candidates. Polls show that a Democrat candidate other than Biden would fare better against Trump, while the Republican former diplomat and governor Nicky Halley, who is far behind Trump but is gaining support, beats Biden by 10 points nationally among registered voters. One cannot absolutely preclude the possibility that either Trump or Biden will be forced to drop out of the race, edging the political system toward normalcy.