Dr. Malcolm Cross

Both President Biden and former President Trump want the 2024 presidential election to be a rematch of the 2020 election.  Biden wants to run against Trump again because he thinks Trump is the candidate he can most easily beat, while Trump wants to avenge his 2020 loss.  Biden and Trump each has a better chance of winning his party’s presidential nomination than any prospective primary opponent.  Yet neither Biden nor Trump is guaranteed renomination or a return to the White House.

Of the two, Biden stands the better chance of renomination.  As mentioned in an earlier column, no president seeking renomination has been rejected by his party since 1884.  But Biden faces potential opposition from two sources:

First, as also noted in a previous column, Biden may be challenged from the left.  Progressives through the website have said he’s insufficiently progressive, should retire in favor of a more progressive nominee, and should he try for renomination, “He will have a fight on his hands,” presumably from a progressive recruited to try to deny him renomination—perhaps Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders or Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.  No progressive has yet announced his or her candidacy, but there’s still time to do so.

Second, Biden may also be challenged by more relatively moderate members of his party as well.  They may believe that a more progressive nominee would probably lead the party to a crushing defeat in November, having been rejected by mainstream general election voters who prefer moderately liberal or conservative presidents over extremists from either end of the political spectrum.  Or they could be concerned with Biden’s low approval ratings, especially concerning his perceived mishandling of inflation and the overall economy.  In either instance, fearing either that Biden may lose the nomination to a progressive or win the nomination but still have too much political baggage to win re-election, especially given the controversy over his alleged mishandling of classified documents and his response to the Chinese “weather” balloon, they may intervene to force him out of the race in favor of a relative moderate with a greater chance of defeating the Republicans—California Governor Gavin Newsom, perhaps, or possibly Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar.  

But, Biden’s political situation may get better.  As the inflation and unemployment rates decline, his public opinion ratings—and hence his re-election chances–may improve, thereby allaying some of the fears of moderate Democrats and encouraging them to back Biden’s renomination drive.  After all, no president running for re-election has ever been defeated if the public approved of his economic policies.  

For Trump, the situation is also currently encouraging, but also with potential dangers ahead.  Trump remains popular within the Republican Party—his approval rating among Republicans is currently 70%.  Given the intense loyalty he still elicits from his followers, he will be a formidable candidate for renomination against any of the other candidates currently be discussed, including Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, and Mike Pence.

But Trump’s approval rating among the general public is only about 31%, which is why Biden is so eager to see him the GOP nominee.  Moreover, many wealthy libertarian donors within the GOP, including Charles Koch and his Americans for Prosperity, dislike his trade and immigration policies.  They want less protectionism, more free trade, and greater ease for immigrants to enter the American labor force.  They’ve announced plans to vigorously oppose Trump’s renomination.  Whom, if anyone, they’ll unite around in the primaries remains to be seen, but if they can agree on a single candidate to do battle against Trump they’ll reduce Trump’s chances of winning renomination through the divide-and-conquer strategy he successfully pursued in 2016.  Moreover, Trump’s chances for renomination may also be affected by the results of the ongoing investigations into his alleged mishandling of classified documents, his alleged role in the 1/6 riots, and his alleged meddling in Georgia’s counting of presidential ballots in 2020.  How they’ll play out remains to be seen, but investigations into alleged wrongdoing are never helpful.

One other factor that both Biden and Trump in their mutual quest for a rematch must consider is that despite their own desires, the general public doesn’t want a rematch.  Polls show that at least 57% of Democrats don’t want Biden to seek renomination and 70% of Americans, in general, don’t want him to seek a second term.  And a growing percentage of Republicans may also be becoming disenchanted with Trump.  About 37% of Republicans, whether they approve or disapprove of his past administration and conduct, don’t think he should be renominated.  They may be concerned with the fact that 61% of Independents and 88% of Democrats oppose his return to power, and don’t want to risk renominating him in the face of such potentially overwhelming opposition in the general election.  

So given the pitfalls Biden and Trump must each cope with in their quests for their respective parties’ nominations and opportunities to return to the White House, each should remember the old adage, “Be careful what you wish for—you may get it.”  Biden and Trump are each setting themselves up for inglorious defeats, and at least one, and possibly both, will suffer a great loss.

Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present).  He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014.  He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.

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