A reflection, surely, more of Biden’s inherent political weakness, than Trump’s political strength, but still, notable, and chilling, for all those people who assumed that Trump and Trumpism was dead and buried in the United States:
Trump’s shadow campaign also recently polled Trump-Biden matchups in the five states, all of which were decided in 2020 by fewer than 3 percentage points. According to the poll, a memo of which was obtained by POLITICO, the former president led Biden in Arizona by 8 percentage points, Georgia by 3 points, Michigan by 12 points, Pennsylvania by 6 points and Wisconsin by 10 points.
“Poll after poll clearly demonstrates that former President Donald Trump is still the 800-pound gorilla in the GOP and would be its 2024 nominee should he run,” said Fabrizio, who confirmed the numbers for POLITICO but did not provide them. “This new data clearly shows that today the voters in these five key states would be happy to return Trump to the White House and send Biden packing.”
There are caveats with polls that are obvious, and important to mention anyway: First, the election is in November of 2024, just under three years away. If a week is a long time in politics, then three years is long enough for careers to rise, fall, and become extinct. Second, the poll was paid for by Trump’s political organisation. Pollsters have a habit of producing results, especially in American politics, that are closer to what their paymasters would like to see than they are, perhaps, to reality.
The third caveat is the most important: We do not need polls to know that Donald Trump would be a very weak candidate against Joe Biden. We have, handily enough, the results of two Presidential elections, in both of which Trump was soundly beaten in the popular vote total by Hillary Clinton first, and Biden second. In two goes at it, Trump has never come close to winning 50% of the vote nationally, which is the easiest way to guarantee victory.
But that does not mean he can not win. 2024 has every likelihood of being an entirely different proposition to last year’s defeat.
For one thing, Biden is on course, at this stage of his presidency, to be a historically unpopular incumbent. His approval ratings, less than a year after taking office, are worse than those of any President in modern history. He has struggled to accomplish anything of note on policy, aside from a long-promised infrastructure bill, passed with Republican votes. He presided over what, polls tell us, Americans view as a disastrously botched withdrawal from Afghanistan. Inflation is pummelling American wages and savings. And, having gotten elected on a promise to end the Covid pandemic, cases are as much of a problem in the US as ever, where vaccine hesitancy is on a scale that would make Tony Holohan wake up in the middle of the night, screaming.
And of course, structurally, Biden continues to lose ground politically on the culture war. Consider this, from just yesterday:
The statue of Thomas Jefferson in New York City Hall has been removed, after an unanimous vote by a committee.
The statue honouring the third US President was removed due to his links to slavery. pic.twitter.com/EZ0DFS4ydA
— GB News (@GBNEWS) November 23, 2021
The sight of Democrats, presiding over a weak economy, and focusing on removing statues of Thomas Jefferson, should concentrate minds: That’s the recipe for Trump mark 2.
But people who love and like America should not, in my view, want to see a Trump candidacy. He has been President. He had four long, tiring, years at the helm. In that time, if you are a conservative, or even a nationalist, he accomplished nothing of note, except for persistently “owning the libs”. One can criticise Biden for accomplishing no legislation of note in one year, but one must in fairness note that Trump delivered no legislation of note in four years. Indeed, it often felt as if Trump supporters enjoyed the idea of having a President who drove the other side crazy more than they wanted somebody to actually govern the country. What Trump did do, and what should worry people about a third run for the Presidency, is undermine confidence in elections themselves.
Polls now show that only about a third of Republican voters trust that the next election will be fairly conducted. Already, Trump supporters, and the former President himself, are trying to “purge” the Republican Party of members who refused to back up his evidence-free claims that the 2020 election was rigged against him. What happens if he runs in 2024, and loses? Chances are, he’ll pull the same routine again, except this time with a Republican Party too frightened to stand up to him.
The annoying thing, from the perspective of an outsider, is that his party has better options. There are young, Trumpy, popular Governors in Florida and South Dakota. There are a range of Trumpy Senators. All of them come with the same policies, but without the persistent ill-discipline, and self-obsession, of the man himself.
Nobody would be happier to see Trump running again than Joe Biden. Against most other Republicans, he figures to be in real trouble. Against the man he replaced? He’ll always have a chance.
But of course, politics is emotional, not logical. And therefore, nobody should be surprised to see Trump back, and with a real chance to win.