There have been a number of pieces out recently projecting that Trump is going to run in 2024 and that he will be very difficult to stop.
I agree. He’s raised over $100 million. He polls at 65% among Republicans, thirty points higher than others. His base remains fervent. And many of his strongest opponents will choose to sit it out rather than lose their luster among the most partisan.
Nikki Haley has already said that she wouldn’t run against Trump. Ron DeSantis may be the strongest alternative, but Ron is young enough to wait out a cycle rather than risk it all against Trump – and he’s been telling supporters in private he wouldn’t run against Trump. Trump might draw an opponent like Chris Christie and Mike Pence, but it will likely be a cakewalk. The biggest obstacles to this in my view are his health – he is 75 – or an unlikely legal prosecution based upon some of his past financial dealings in New York.
One big variable – does Trump the presidential candidate get his social media megaphones back? It’s hard to exclude the nominee of a major party or even a contender. This is an awful thought, to me, as things have felt saner with him off Twitter.
Let’s say it is Trump. Who will run against him from the Democratic side? The logical choice is Joe Biden, the incumbent who already defeated Trump once. The main issues are that Joe will be 81 and may be visibly flagging by then. Joe also is relatively unpopular right now for a President at this stage in his administration – he’s running at around 43%, though this could obviously rebound over the coming months.
Joe characterized himself as a bridge to the next generation. Does that mean that Kamala Harris would be the most likely candidate in 2024? Some would love the contrast between Kamala and Trump. Kamala, however, regularly polls worse than Joe by a few points. Her one big national foray – her presidential run – underperformed. The team around her is shifting. And she seems to have some elements of the political media that aren’t favorable to her.
Kamala reminds me of Hillary Clinton – a deep blue state Senator who underperformed in a presidential primary and then is appointed to a very senior position by the Democratic President who defeated her. Her native ability to win a national campaign is a total unknown with the existing data points somewhat discouraging. Unlike Kamala though, Hillary had a very deep set of relationships among just about everyone in the Democratic power structure.
Who does that leave? After you go past Joe and Kamala, you’d likely have to run a competitive primary. It’s not like they can just look around and say “Our nominee should be . . . Pete!” even if a critical mass of the party decides that’s what they want. There are also the terrible optics of pushing aside Kamala, unless she were to make it seem that it’s entirely up to her. It would be difficult to run a competitive Democratic primary in 2024 with a sitting President and Vice President right there – it would make the party seem fractious and introduce uncertainty that Democrats wouldn’t enjoy.
In my opinion, the Democrats’ best bet might be a candidate like Jon Ossoff, who is a young Senator from a swing state who could energize a lot of voters. Jon is social media savvy, media friendly and has been through two races that were nationalized with flying colors. But again, Jon would have to go through a competitive primary that Democrats would, I believe, prefer to avoid.
So that leads us back to Joe. I believe the biggest variable is Joe’s health. Joe underperformed in early primary states where there was a lot of retail politicking in part because he wasn’t as strong a campaigner as some others. He did much better in states where it was strictly TV.
Note that I had a front row seat to this. Will he have the strength after 3 years of being President? He would be the incumbent which would have many advantages – most of his campaigning would likely be on television from the White House or other presidential venues.
One thing that many don’t understand is that Joe’s victory in 2020 was razor-thin; 42,000 votes in 3 states – Arizona, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania – decided the race. Joe’s massive popular vote win was driven up in blue states like New York and California, and that margin is irrelevant.
Joe will also likely be saddled with a Republican Congress after 2022. The in-power party traditionally loses 10 -15 seats in off-cycle elections. Right now the Democratic majority is only 5 seats, likely to be reduced by redistricting. Note also that Democrats surprisingly lost 13 seats against Trump in 2020, in what they were hoping was a wave election.
Betting markets have the Republicans retaking the majority in the House in 2022 as a 74% likelihood. This will almost certainly make Joe’s ability to have major victories to crow about in 2023 and 2024 leading up to the race almost nil.
If you’re a Democrat reading this, perhaps you are shuddering. A lot can change on a dime of course. Maybe the reconciliation package will pass and be so popular that Democrats hold the House. Maybe one of the people we are discussing could have a major health issue tomorrow.
But based on what we know, we are likely looking at Biden vs. Trump II.
I don’t think that would be welcome news to a significant body of Americans who would look up and say, “We’re running this back again?” The advanced age of both candidates would be historic on both sides. It truly would be a sign of how sclerotic our system and institutions are.
But this is where the political incentives will lead.
This isn’t even the main concern. Bill Maher makes the case that the issue isn’t who the Democrats run or even what the vote totals look like – it’s going to be the integrity of the system itself and whether people stay home or take to the streets.
In an environment where millions of Americans don’t trust vote counts and can be encouraged to insurrection, the unthinkable is on the table: widespread violence and a contested election.
The superficial script will be Democrats vs. Republicans. The underlying challenge will be the continuation of a stable Democracy with peaceful transitions vs. an arena of political chaos in a time of record-high institutional mistrust.
You can put me in the camp believing that this is a real possibility.
So what do we do?
People imagine that I am setting up a third party in order to set the stage for a presidential run in 2024. That’s wrong. I’ve founded Forward in order to provide a movement to reform a system that is increasingly setting us up to both fail and turn on each other.
There has to be a positive, unifying political tribe that acts to reform the dysfunctional system in 2022 via ballot initiatives and elevating aligned candidates.
I hope you’ll join us! This is our only chance before 2024 to introduce a different political dynamic and free a critical mass of representatives from complete adherence to party dictates. It may mean the difference between election integrity and civil unrest.
There is the battle between the 2 major parties. And then there is the battle to modernize, preserve and sustain a functioning democracy in the time that we have.
That’s our opportunity. We don’t have long. Let’s spread the word and work hard and fast. 2024 will be here before we know it.