2024: Biden vs. Trump vs. Biden vs. Not Trump
A debate breaks out about how the next election
On Thursday’s Pod Save America, Sarah Longwell, the Never Republican strategist, made a declaration about Joe Biden’s 2024 prospects that caused a minor firestorm online. Longwell declared, "I think any Republican who is not named Donald Trump will beat Joe Biden."
I have a lot of respect for Sarah. Her observations are grounded in research, unlike most people who talk about politics. She has held regular focus groups with undecided and up-for-grabs voters for years. I would venture that she has spent more time talking to the voters who will decide the 2024 election than anyone else in American politics. Her observations should be taken seriously. I encourage everyone to listen to the full interview for context as opposed to reacting to this one 11-second excerpt.
But the online reaction refers to the specific prediction that Biden will lose to a non-Trump Republican, so that’s what I want to address.
While Joe Biden hasn’t made a final decision, all signs point to the President running for reelection. Everyone in the Democratic Party is preparing for him to run; and all of the people who were going to run if Biden didn’t, stopped making calls to donors and sounding out staff. While nothing is certain in life, the next campaign will likely be Joe Biden vs. Donald Trump or Joe Biden vs. a Republican not named Donald Trump. Crooked Media posted a clip of the Longwell interview with the caption, “agree or disagree?”
Who am I to turn down such a perfect writing prompt?
The Known Fundamentals of a 2024 Campaign
In political terms, the 2024 presidential election is light years from now and we know very little about how it will shape up. Donald Trump announced his candidacy right after the midterms but has avoided the public since then. In fact, there is a chance that he will be sitting in prison when you are reading this. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, fresh off a big win in 2022, was leading the race to be the non-Donald Trump (but still very Trumpy) candidate. Mike Pence was actively plotting a campaign despite the fact that the Republican Party’s most committed voters recently endorsed his death by hanging. A bunch of other lesser lights (see: Cruz, Ted) and grifters (see: Pompeo, Mike) were also planning on running for President.
The candidates are not the only “known unknowns.” What’s happening in the economy? How high is inflation? What’s the price of gas? Is Trump in jail? Is he running for President from a jail cell?
As a reminder of how fast things can change, the entire 2020 race was upended in early March when the pandemic began in force. Something similar happened less than two months before the election in 2008 when Lehman Brothers collapsed.
However, not knowing everything, doesn’t mean that we don’t know anything. First, America is so polarized that every presidential election is a coin toss. Small shifts in voter choice or turnout in a couple of states can tilt elections. The 2016 election was decided by 80,000 votes in four states. The 2020 election was even more narrowly decided. Under the right circumstances, Joe Biden (or any other Democrat) can beat any Republican and vice versa.